Rays 7, Orioles 4

The Tampa Bay Rays are doing a good job of creating some

separation between themselves and the Baltimore Orioles, while at

the same time keeping within striking distance of the first-place

Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

Even though it’s not September yet, the Rays don’t intend to

wait around to make their run at the top.

Alex Cobb took a two-hitter into the seventh inning, Matt Joyce

drove in three runs and Tampa Bay beat the Orioles 7-4 Tuesday

night for its sixth win in seven games.

Wil Myers had two hits and two RBIs for the Rays, who are

percentage points ahead of Boston in the AL East after the Red Sox

lost to the Giants later Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay has won the first two games of this series between AL

East rivals and can complete a sweep Wednesday night.

”It’s very big for where we’re at in the division and the fact

we’re chasing the Red Sox a little bit and also trying to create

some distance, because we know the O’s and the Yankees are very

capable and very tough competitors,” said Ben Zobrist, who had two

hits and an RBI. ”We don’t anticipate it being any sort of easy

road to the end of September and we’ve got to battle. This is two

great wins for us to start off.”

The Orioles, on the other hand, have lost six of eight and are

in danger of being overtaken by the surging Yankees.

”It’s not the position we would prefer to find ourselves in

after the first two games of the series, that’s for sure, but

there’s still plenty of baseball left for us to make up some

ground,” said Nate McLouth, who went 0 for 5. ”It’s not ideal at

all, but we won’t let this game affect (Wednesday’s) game.”

Cobb (8-2) was making his second start since being hit in the

head by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer on

June 15. The right-hander allowed two runs, one earned, three hits

and four walks in six-plus innings to win his fifth straight

decision.

”The curveball really helped me out early on,” Cobb said. ”My

changeup started working a little bit so I established that I was

going to throw in and out with the fastball early and I got them to

expand the zone a few times with my off-speed pitches.”

Cobb left after Baltimore used two walks and a single to load

the bases with no outs in the seventh. Alex Torres got Brian

Roberts to hit into a run-scoring double play before striking out

McLouth to keep the Rays ahead 3-2.

”They brought in that lefty with that really good changeup to

come in and do exactly what he did and that’s why they’re such a

tough team,” McLouth said. ”Because they can make life pretty

tough on you.”

Joyce doubled in two runs in the ninth off T.J. McFarland and

Myers added a broken-bat, two-run single off Jim Johnson.

Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the bottom half before

Fernando Rodney entered and got three outs for his 29th save.

Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (8-6) gave up three runs, two

earned, eight hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The

right-hander is 0-3 in five starts since July 20.

One night after getting 15 hits in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay,

Baltimore managed only five hits, four of them singles.

”We didn’t get any hits. That’s obvious,” manager Buck

Showalter said. ”If you want to look for a reason, I personally

look at Cobb, who was tough. We didn’t do much off him tonight. I

think that was it in a nutshell.”

The Rays have won seven of eight against the Orioles to take an

8-5 lead in the season series.

The two teams with the fewest errors in the majors each gave up

an unearned run in the second inning. In the top half, Joyce

walked, advanced on an errant pickoff throw by Gonzalez and scored

on a two-out bloop by Yunel Escobar.

Baltimore tied it when Evan Longoria muffed a grounder and

Flaherty singled in a run with two outs.

Tampa Bay went up 3-1 in the third. After Desmond Jennings

walked and scored on a double by Zobrist, Longoria singled and

Joyce delivered a sacrifice fly.

Gonzalez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by

getting James Loney to bounce into a double play.

NOTES: Zobrist moved into a fifth-place tie with B.J. Upton on

the team’s career RBI list with 447. Aubrey Huff is in fourth with

449. … Jeremy Hellickson, who’s 8-3 lifetime against Baltimore,

starts for Tampa Bay in the series finale Wednesday night. LH

Wei-Yin Chen will pitch for Baltimore. … The Orioles had won five

straight over the Rays with Gonzalez as the starter. … McLouth is

hitless in his last 17 at-bats.