Running out of time to make up ground in the AL playoff race, the Tampa Bay Rays turn to youngster Alex Cobb for Monday's opener of a four-game series with the Boston Red Sox.
The Rays did themselves no favors last week, going just 1-5 on a six-game road trip against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. Instead of tightening things up in the standings, the Rays now sit five games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East and four back of the Orioles for the league's second wild card spot.
Tampa Bay dropped the rubber match of its series with New York on Sunday as Matt Moore lasted just three innings in a 6-4 loss. He gave up five runs on three hits and four walks in the shortest outing of his career.
"In the first and second inning I felt really good and I liked our chances from there. That third inning was just atrocious," Moore said after yielding five runs in the aforementioned third frame.
Cobb has gone 9-8 with a 4.26 earned run average through 20 starts this season and is undefeated over his last eight outings. He is 5-0 in that span and the Rays won each of the first seven games of that run before dropping a 3-2 decision to the Orioles on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old righty yielded two runs and struck out six over just 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
Cobb faced Boston for the first time in his career on May 25 and earned a win, giving up one earned run in five innings of work.
While the Rays are still fighting for a playoff spot, the Red Sox are looking to avoid their first last-place finish in the division since 1992.
Boston fell a game behind Toronto for that spot with a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. The loss gave the Red Sox a 66-81 record on the season, securing their first non-winning campaign since a 78-84 finish in 1997.
Jon Lester allowed three runs over seven innings and struck out seven in Sunday's loss, which denied Boston a three-game sweep.
"I have to keep looking at the positives and keep plugging away," Lester said.
There haven't been many positives as of late for Aaron Cook, who tries to avoid a sixth straight losing decision tonight for Boston.
Cook has lost nine of his last 10 decisions and has a 6.00 ERA over his current winless drought, which spans six starts. The righty hasn't won since Aug. 6 and pitched five-plus innings versus the Yankees on Wednesday, yielding three runs on seven hits and two homers.
The righty is 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA in 15 starts this season and 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA in three lifetime encounters with the Rays. Tonight will mark the first time this season that the 33-year-old Cook will face the club.
Boston is 7-5 versus Tampa Bay this season.