DENVER (AP) — Giving up three home runs was both humbling and a relief for Alex Cobb.
As much as it stung to get dinged like that, Cobb limited the damage by yielding only solo shots, allowing him to pitch effectively into the seventh inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 Sunday.
“Obviously, I’m upset that I gave up three home runs, but the fact that they were all solo shots means I was keeping guys off base for the most part,” Cobb said. “I feel good. I’m happy I gave the team a chance to win. I probably couldn’t ask for better situations for those home runs to be hit in.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon said it takes a different mindset to pitch in Denver’s mile-high elevation and and that means shrugging off the occasional homer.
“When you’re playing in zero gravity, man, you’ve got to understand that’s going to happen and you can not let that bother you,” Maddon said. “It’s going to happen. Accept it and move on.”
Cobb battled the elements with a stoic outlook and something as simple as running his pitching hand frequently through his hair, wet with sweat, to help get a firm grip on the ball in the dry, thin air.
“I kind of just started wiping my hair a little bit,” Cobb said. “By going to my hair and grabbing some moisture there, that helped out a lot.”
His teammates also pitched in on the offensive end, more-so with timely hitting than a power display.
Jose Lobaton, Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson each drove in two runs for the Rays. Tampa Bay took two of three and won a series at Coors Field for the first time in four visits.
Cobb (4-2) went 6 2-3 innings and allowed eight hits. Nolan Arenado hit a two-out homer in the seventh that pulled the Rockies within 6-3, a day after the rookie had a grand slam.
The Rockies, however, went 0-9 with runners in scoring position.
“Other than the middle game of the series, we struggled with runners in scoring position,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “We hit some home runs, but if nobody hits with runners in scoring position, it’s tough.”
Coming into the game, Cobb had only given up two home runs in his five previous starts. But he wriggled out of trouble in key spots, getting two of his six strikeouts in the sixth after a throwing error put a Rockies baserunner on second with one out.
“That’s what good pitchers do,” Roberts said. “You’re going to give up hits. You’re going to give up homers but minimizing the damage is the best thing and that’s what he did. He controlled the game.”
Lobaton stretched Tampa Bay’s lead in the eighth with a two-run single after a second passed ball by catcher Wilin Rosario allowed baserunners Evan Longoria and James Loney to advance to third and second, respectively.
Tampa Bay jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first off Jhoulys Chacin, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. He suffered a lower back strain April 19 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, though he pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings for the victory before being forced exit.
Matt Joyce came home from third on a wild pitch around RBI singles by Loney and Johnson as the Rays broke on top against Chacin (3-1). He gave up a season-high six runs — five earned — on eight hits in seven innings.
“Overall I felt good,” Chacin said. “No issues. My back felt fine. I had a rough start, but after that I kept us in the game. There were a couple of bloopers and some bad luck in the sixth inning. But you just want to go out and get the outs.”
Michael Cuddyer connected for his seventh home run leading off the second, driving a 2-2 pitch from Cobb into the left field bleachers. Troy Tulowitzki pulled the Rockies to within a run when he hit a solo shot leading off the fourth for his seventh of the season.
Tampa Bay added three more runs in the sixth. Joyce drew a leadoff walk and went to third when Loney’s line shot glanced off leaping second baseman Josh Rutledge’s glove for a single. Johnson followed with an RBI single and Loney and Johnson both moved up on a passed ball before Roberts doubled to drive them both home for a 6-2 lead.
Rockies first baseman Todd Helton also came off the disabled list after missing the past two weeks because of a left forearm strain.
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 4-8 all-time at Colorado. … To make room on the roster for Helton and Chacin, the Rockies optioned infielder Ryan Wheeler and right-hander Tyler Chatwood to their Triple A affiliate in Colorado Springs. … The Rays’ Ben Zobrist has left the team to attend funeral services for his grandfather. … Tampa Bay has scored 27 runs in the first inning, more than the Rays have had in any other inning. … The Rockies are off Monday before opening a three game-set against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. It’s the Yankees’ first trip to Colorado since 2007, when the Rockies swept a three-game set from New York. … With two errors, the Rays had their first multi-error game of the season. … Tampa Bay returns to begin a 10-game homestand on Monday against Toronto with Jeremy Hellickson (1-2) pitching against the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle (1-2).