ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie right-hander Alex Cobb's night on the mound seemed bad enough in the 8-0 momentum-halting loss to the A's on Saturday night. But it got worse as Cobb was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital for a series of precautionary tests due to what the Rays said was "discomfort" in his right hand.
The team didn't plan any updates until today and didn't even say what might be wrong, though indications were that it was more a vascular issue, such as a blood clot, than a structural problem.
"He did not complain of anything during the course of the game," manager Joe Maddon said. "I have no idea. I just know that it was his hand and it was bothering him, and he's being checked out."
That wasn't the Rays' only problem as their previously perky offense — 24 runs in the previous three games — was shut down and shut out by Brandon McCarthy. And also that they allowed a team-record seven stolen bases, all against rookie catcher Robinson Chirinos.
Maddon said, though, that the pitchers were more to blame for their slow delivery times to the plate than Chirinos in all but one case. "He didn't have much of a chance," Maddon said.
The result was an end to their hopes-raising three-game winning streak, which dropped the Rays to 59-53, and the reality of dropping back to 10 games out — of both first place in the AL East and the wild card with the Red Sox beating the Yankees — with only 50 games remaining.
Something seemed amiss as Cobb wasn't as sharp as he had been, failing to get out of the fifth inning and allowing five runs — more than in any of his previous eight starts — before a Goo Goo Dolls-infused crowd of 24,939.
"He was uncomfortable," Maddon said. "Something was bothering him. He didn't say anything. He just looked uncomfortable. Right down to the way he was finishing some pitches. Apparently something was bothering him. He didn't say anything to any of us.
"That's what I talk about with good makeup guys. You've got to be careful with them sometimes because they're going to try to conceal something in an effort to pitch further into the game, which is what he did. Something was not right. (Bench coach Dave Martinez) and I were discussing it during the course of the game. I just thought he was off a little bit. We made some adjustments the other day with some things that he was doing to try to conceal his pitches. I don't know, I thought it may have been that. But apparently it was something else."
Cobb dressed and left for the hospital, with team Dr. Koco Eaton, before the clubhouse was opened to the media.
Maddon said Cobb still had "the regular velocity" on his fastball but "didn't have the regular bite" on his changeup. "He got some swings and misses but not his normal swing-and-miss pattern," Maddon said. "Something just wasn't right. So we're going to find out what that may have been."
McCarthy has been pitching well, with a 4-0, 2.78 mark in five starts since the All-Star break. But that doesn't explain his mastery over the Rays, as he has thrown two eight-inning masterpieces, allowing one run on six hits on July 26 in Oakland then no runs on five hits Saturday. He is 2-0, 0.56 against the Rays this season, and 3-5, 3.79 against everyone else.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.