ST. PETERSBURG — Right-hander Alex Cobb appeared headed for a special night Monday, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Red Sox.
But, in what has become a familiar refrain for the reeling Rays, it ended in frustration, a 5-2 loss to Boston in front of 11,722 that delivered another big blow to their dwindling playoff hopes.
Tampa Bay, having lost seven of its past 10, fell to five games behind the Orioles for the second AL wild-card spot with just 15 to go. The Rays (78-69) are running short on time — and answers.
"It's just not happening," centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "I don't know what to say about it. We're just not winning, that's the bottom line."
Like Sunday's loss in New York, this one was sloppy at times, with three errors and a passed ball. It was also marred by a short, heated dugout exchange after the top of the sixth between Cobb and catcher Jose Molina, with Sun Sports cameras showing pitching coach Jim Hickey separating the two.
Cobb said he still doesn't know what the argument was about, other than it had nothing to do with Molina's passed ball in the sixth. But Cobb made it clear he did not instigate it — "I wouldn't approach a teammate in the dugout like that" — and believes the two players will move past the incident. Molina declined to comment as he walked past reporters in the quiet clubhouse.
"We're both professionals, those kinds of blowups happen throughout the course of the year," Cobb said. "And they have. Put it behind you, you don't need to be best friends with somebody to go out and work together."
Cobb cruised until the sixth, when he hit a batter and allowed a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury on a 3-and-1 fastball. Cobb said the incident with Molina didn't affect him when the two returned to their positions in the seventh, though he was pulled after allowing the first two hitters to reach base.
Reliever Burke Badenhop came in and got Ryan Lavarnway to hit a potential double-play grounder up the middle. But Ben Zobrist bobbled it, allowing the Red Sox to load the bases with two outs and leading to pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez's two-run single.
"(Cobb) had really good stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's going to get a loss for that game tonight, but you look at how well he pitched and it's the same old refrain …
"We're just not hitting."
The Rays mustered five hits against starter Aaron Cook, who had lost six straight starts with a 6.00 ERA in that span.
"We have to do better offensively," Maddon said. "We are running out of time to do that."
As for the argument, Maddon said he spoke to the two afterward and everything is fine. He said such incidents are often "overblown" and can actually "be a good thing," citing the highly publicized spat between ex-Rays righty Matt Garza and catcher Dioner Navarro several years ago.
"Boys will be boys on occasion," Maddon said. "And it's fine right now."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.