Rays-Red Sox Preview
While casual baseball fans may not recognize the name, Alex Cobb figures to get his fair share of acclaim going forward.
The Boston Red Sox are already familiar with the promising 25-year-old.
Cobb looks to build on an impressive season debut as the Tampa Bay Rays go for a fifth consecutive win over Boston in the first of four Friday night at Fenway Park.
After going 7-1 with a 3.09 ERA over his final 11 starts last year, Cobb (1-0, 0.00 ERA) picked up right where he left off Saturday in a 6-0 win over Cleveland. The right-hander threw 7 1-3 innings of four-hit ball, earning high praise from manager Joe Maddon.
"(He) started out like gangbusters," Maddon told MLB's official website. "Everything was working - the fastball, the comebacker on the front hip of the lefties, really good curve, good changeup. ... He looked very, very good. Confidence is soaring and that's a great first game to build off."
Cobb may be overshadowed by reigning AL Cy Young award winner David Price and highly-touted Matt Moore, but he's certainly capable of putting up big numbers, too.
"We're always having a little friendly competition among the starters," he said. "I think every time any of us get the ball every night, we're trying to go nine. Same with me (Saturday). If I don't have those three walks, probably could have a pretty decent chance at that. It's something to work at throughout the year."
Cobb now turns his attention to the Red Sox (5-4), whom he went 2-1 against while compiling a 2.81 ERA last year, with both wins coming at Fenway.
"I haven't felt extremely comfortable there the last few times I've pitched there. I think that's in the past," said Cobb, a Boston native. "I've had some success, but they haven't been my crispest performances."
Dustin Pedroia hasn't been able to figure him out, going 0 for 6 in their matchups. While Boston split 18 meetings with Tampa Bay (4-5) in 2012, it dropped the last four by a combined 29-11 score.
The Red Sox enter the weekend hoping to avoid a third straight loss after falling 3-2 to Baltimore on Thursday. Boston, which had won its first two series, dropped to 8-21 at home dating to August 1.
After getting outscored 24-5 during a three-game skid, including back-to-back losses at Texas, Tampa Bay salvaged Wednesday's series finale with a 2-0 win. The Rays held the Rangers hitless in seven chances with runners in scoring position.
"The last two days were tough days, tough losses for us," said Ben Zobrist, who had two hits and an RBI. "But getting a win going into an off day certainly feels a lot better."
Besides hitting a team-best .364, Zobrist leads the club with nine RBIs. He's batting .407 with eight RBIs in his last seven games against Boston.
Zobrist will look to stay hot against Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40), who gave up three runs and nine hits over five-plus innings but didn't factor in the decision of last Friday's 6-4 win at Toronto.
"I thought tonight he had his best stuff of the year," manager John Farrell said. "He was downhill consistently, he had an outstanding changeup, he was powerful. A good step forward for him."
Doubront compiled a 3.09 ERA in winning his last two starts against the Rays. The left-hander walked nine but yielded just seven hits and struck out 12 over a combined 11 2-3 innings.