Rays notes: Cobb realistic about team’s October chances

Alex Cobb admits that this September feels very different for the Rays, who are 9.5 games back in the AL wild-card race.

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ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — The increasing likelihood of missing out on October baseball has registered for right-hander Alex Cobb. The Tampa Bay Rays entered Thursday 9.5 games back for the American League’s second wild-card spot, and the current predicament feels foreign to him.

”It doesn’t look good for us right now,” Cobb said. ”It’s never been this bad for us coming into September while I’ve been here. … This early in September, it’s never been this way. So yeah, it feels extremely weird.”

Technically, the Rays remain alive for postseason contention. But the math is unkind. Before the Thursday finale of their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field, they held a 67-73 record, which placed them behind the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Blue Jays in the chase for the second wild-card spot.

Cobb, who starts against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday at Tropicana Field, has enjoyed meaningful September play throughout most of his Rays career since his debut in 2011. Tampa Bay reached the AL Division Series in the 2011 and 2013 seasons. In 2012, they went 90-72 despite missing out on the postseason.

”I kind of feel bad for the guys that are getting called up, and they don’t get to experience how much excitement September can bring,” Cobb said. ”And I guess we’ve been spoiled in that way, because a lot of guys don’t understand that. A lot of guys haven’t even made it to the playoffs in their career. It’s weird. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with it, and it’s a terrible feeling, which is good. You want guys to be upset about this and not let it happen next year.

”We started playing some good ball, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole. I’d say, honestly, this past few days, this past series, was really when it was like, ‘Man, it’s looking really, really tough right now.’ It’s just starting to sink in. It probably hasn’t sunk in entirely. I’d say within this past week it’s been starting to become more of a reality.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon, for his part, said he remains focused on each day and avoids looking at the standings. Still, he understands the Rays’ slim hopes to play past September.

”I love the fact that Alex is being honest with you,” Maddon said. ”I love that. But from my perspective, my way with dealing with all this is, focus on today. Try to win tonight’s game. … I know the math looks horrific, if there’s any math at all. But I’m just worried about winning tonight’s game.”

JENNINGS WON’T SHUT HIMSELF DOWN

Outfielder Desmond Jennings remained out of the lineup Thursday because of left knee soreness. The issue, described as a bone bruise by Jennings, has lingered throughout the past week, with Jennings not playing since a loss to the Orioles on Aug. 28 at Camden Yards.

However, Jennings said he remains hopeful that he can play at some point this season.

”That’s the plan,” he said. ”I’m not going to shut it down.”

Jennings said there’s ”nothing wrong” and that he thought he could have returned as recently as Tuesday before the pain flared up again. Maddon said Jennings’ situation remains a pain-tolerance issue.

”I’m always concerned about putting somebody out there that can cause permanent damage to themselves,” Maddon said. ”From what I’ve been told, we don’t believe that he could. So at this point, it’s just a tolerance issue.”

ARCHER’S TOUGH OUTINGS

Right-hander Chris Archer has struggled throughout his past two starts, creating questions of whether fatigue has become a factor for him. He allowed a combined 14 runs (13 earned) and 20 hits in losses to the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 29 and Blue Jays on Wednesday.

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Archer’s best month came when he posted a 1.95 ERA in six June starts. Since, he has posted a 3.86 ERA in four July starts and a 3.53 ERA in six August starts.

Maddon said the break on Archer’s slider was off Wednesday, which contributed to the pitcher’s struggles in the loss.

”The only thing that I saw that wasn’t as good last night, I thought, was his slider, which is very big to me,” Maddon said. ”Overall fastball I thought was similar.”

WORTH NOTING

— The Rays entered Thursday not committing an error in their last three games after producing one in eight consecutive contests prior.

— Toronto’s victory Wednesday clinched their first road series victory over Tampa Bay since April 6-8, 2007. The Rays had a home-series record of 20-0-2 against the Blue Jays in the span.

— The Rays began Thursday 15 games back in the AL East, matching their season-high deficit (also happened at the end of play June 9 and June 10).

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.