ST. PETERSBURG — It was nearly an hour after the Rays' 5-3 win over the Royals on Saturday, and left-hander Alex Torres said he was still shaking.
Torres, like everyone else, was scared when starter Alex Cobb was struck in the right ear with a line drive in the fifth inning and taken to the hospital on a stretcher. Though Torres was later relieved to find out that Cobb appears to be okay — having suffered a concussion, with all tests normal — he had only one thought when he got suddenly called in to relieve the right-hander.
"I was coming out to try to pick up Alex Cobb in the game," Torres said. "And just do it for him."
Torres picked up the victory with another impressive 1⅔-innings appearance, helping the Rays (36-32) snap a three-game losing streak in front of 18,593 at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay's offense did its part in backing up Cobb, hitting three homers and not striking out once for the first time since July 15, 2007. Most notable was the contribution of maligned DH Luke Scott, who made his first start in leftfield and hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning.
Scott's struggles had helped fuel speculation this past week that touted prospect Wil Myers might be called up. But Scott is now 5-for-6 in his past three games, showing signs he's coming out of his slump.
"It felt great," Scott said. "Any day that you have success in this game is always a good day. It's something to be thankful for. Today went well for us as a group, as a team and I had some personal success as well. It felt awesome."
Maddon noticed Scott had looked better the previous couple of games, when he came off the bench to pick up a combined three hits. With Evan Longoria serving as the DH due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Maddon started Scott in left (and might do it again today), batting him third.
Scott said he and hitting coach Derek Shelton looked at video, comparing it to how he looked during a successful 2010 season, and made adjustments. Scott's home run was his first since May 19, snapping a 21-game drought.
"That was a nice comeback for him," Maddon said. "We needed that, we needed that lift from him and he provided it."
Matt Joyce and Longoria each hit their 14th homers in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively, to give the Rays much-needed insurance runs, as closer Fernando Rodney put two runners on with two outs in another interesting ninth. But Torres stole the show, stepping in on short notice for Cobb, striking out four of the five batters he faced in a perfect 19-pitch outing. Torres has not allowed a run in 16 innings this season, saying he's feeling "really comfortable."
"Alex Torres was ridiculously good again," Maddon said. "(19) pitches, five outs really was a dominant performance."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.