There was a time when Cobb wasn’t even sure he would pitch again this season.
On June 15, he suffered a concussion when he was struck in the right ear by a line drive hit by Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. Cobb was sidelined for 50 games and Tuesday he recalled lying on his sofa and wondering if he would be able to help the Rays contend for a playoff spot.
He didn’t want a repeat of 2011, when he couldn’t pitch in the playoffs after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his ribs.
But not only did Cobb go 5-1 after his scary moment, the 25-year-old finished 11-3 in 22 starts and manager Joe Maddon didn’t hesitate giving him the ball for the winner-take-all wild-card game.
The Indians went from 94 losses a year ago to 92 wins under first-year manager Terry Francona and won their last 10 games to make the postseason for the first time since 2007.
But it was one and done for Cleveland, which didn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities. The first three hitters, Michael Bourn, Swisher and Jason Kipnis, went a combined 0 for 12.
The road-tested Rays, who have traveled 3,627 miles since leaving home on Sept. 23, took a 3-0 lead in the fourth on Desmond Jennings’ two-run double.
James Loney and Evan Longoria hit one-out singles before Salazar retired Ben Zobrist on a fly to right, sending Loney to third. Jennings, who recently missed time with a hamstring injury, pulled Salazar’s pitch past diving a diving Chisenhall at third, and by the time left fielder Michael Brantley, who had been shading Jennings toward center, ran it down, Loney and Longoria scored to give Cobb a three-run cushion.
Cobb was in trouble in the bottom of the inning as the Indians loaded the bases on a double, single and walk. But Cobb got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit a grounder to first baseman Loney, who threw to second for a force and shortstop Yunel Escobar fired to Cobb covering first for the double play.