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.