Road Rays beat Indians 4-0 in wild-card game

As champagne bottles were being carried into Tampa Bay’s
boisterous celebration, equipment bags were hustled out of the
clubhouse and loaded onto carts before being taken to the
airport.

Another airport. Another trip. Another city.

The Rays aren’t done traveling. Their October road show rolls
on.

Boston bound.

Alex Cobb and three relievers combined to shut out Cleveland and
silence a raucous sellout crowd that hung on every pitch Wednesday
night as Tampa Bay set up a division series showdown with the Red
Sox by beating the Indians 4-0 in the AL wild-card game. In the
past four days, the Rays have won in Toronto, Texas and Cleveland,
a had-to-have, three-game sweep that tested Tampa unlike any series
this season.

”That’s three different venues, three difficult venues,” Rays
manager Joe Maddon said. ”All in enemy territory. I’m so proud of
our guys.”

Cobb, sidelined for 50 games earlier this season after being hit
in the head by a line drive, quieted one of the few sellout crowds
at Progressive Field this season and ended the Indians’ unexpected
postseason abruptly.

Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny
Salazar and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run double as the Rays
advanced to face the AL East champion Red Sox in the best-of-five
division series starting Friday at Fenway Park.

Boston went 12-7 against Tampa Bay and Maddon knows his team is
facing a daunting challenge.

”We probably hit .207 against them,” he said. ”They pitched
really pitched well against us. We just did not swing the bats
well, and that speaks to their pitching. They have a really good
pitching staff. They have a great starting staff. They have a
tremendous bullpen. I do anticipate a lot of the same in the
playoffs as we continue.”

The Rays have been on the road since Sept. 24, when they opened
a three-game series in New York. Then it was off to Toronto, where
they lost two games to the Blue Jays before winning the
regular-season finale to force a one-game tiebreaker with the
Rangers. In Arlington, Texas, Price pitched a complete game in a
5-2 win, sending the Rays to Cleveland.

It’s been a whirlwind of hotel lobbies, buses and restaurants.
They miss the comforts of home.

”I’ve got to wash some clothes or buy some socks or
something,” first baseman James Loney said.

After beating the Indians, the Rays shut off the lights, cranked
up the music and turned their clubhouse into a downtown Cleveland
nightclub.

As Pitbull’s ”Don’t Stop The Party” boomed off walls covered
by plastic sheets, they sprayed each other with Silly String and
splashed in champagne like kids at a water park.

This road trip is rocking.

”Nobody wants to go home,” Cobb said.

Cobb’s comeback in August from his frightening injury helped
stabilize the Rays, who have spent the past two weeks winning
crucial games to reach the postseason for the fourth time in six
years. He pitched out of massive jams in the fourth and fifth, and
allowed two runners to reach in the seventh before turning it over
to Tampa Bay’s dependable bullpen.

”Maybe it was good that I got into some jams,” Cobb said. ”It
made me slow down and make the pitches that I needed to.” Fernando
Rodney worked a perfect ninth, striking out Lonnie Chisenhall to
end it. Rodney dropped to one knee, pointed skyward and soon was
mobbed by all the Rays, who may be homesick but aren’t complaining
about having to pack their bags for at least one more series on the
road.

”We feel like we can win any game, any time, any place,” Cobb
said. ”You know the last part of our schedule, we felt like going
into New York and Toronto kind of helped us when we got to Texas,
playing on the road. We played some tough games at home, and just
at the end of the season to help us get ready for the situation
we’re in now.”

Price had set the tone for the Rays’ postseason run by throwing
a complete game to stifle the Rangers in the wild-card tiebreaker
Monday night, and Cobb picked up where his teammate left off. After
he was pulled in the seventh, Cobb walked to the dugout where he
was first greeted with a high-five from Price.

”The adrenaline was going pretty fast there in the early
going,” Cobb said. ”Once Delmon hit that home run, I tried to
fill up the strike zone. My stuff wasn’t the best, but I made my
defense work. They were awesome.”

At one point this season, Cobb wasn’t even sure he would pitch
again.

On June 15, Cobb 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 recalled lying on his sofa
and wondering if he would be able to help the Rays again. In 2011,
he missed the playoffs after having surgery to remove a blood
clot.

”I appreciated being back out there, and then when I did get
back out there, I vowed to never forget that feeling I had back at
home watching the team and to leave it all out on the field
really,” he said. ”It’s been a whirlwind for sure.”

And the Rays don’t want it to end.

NOTES: Young is appearing in his fifth straight postseason: two
with Minnesota, two with Detroit and this one with Tampa Bay. …
The Indians were last shut out in the postseason in 1998 against
the Yankees. … Indians reliever Chris Perez, who lost his
closer’s job in the final week of the season after two horrid
performances, was kept on the 25-man roster for the game. Cleveland
manager Terry Francona said it ”wasn’t a tough decision” and said
part of it was out of loyalty to the two-time All-Star. … Rays
RHP Jamey Wright was selected to his first postseason roster in his
18th major league season. … Former Indians slugger Jim Thome was
in attendance and got a rousing ovation when shown on the
scoreboard.