St. Petersburg, FL – Alex Cobb tossed seven strong innings to lead the Tampa Bay Rays past the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, in the opener of a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Cobb (11-9) surrendered one run on two hits and two walks while striking out seven for the Rays, who have won 11 of their last 12.
Tampa Bay's surge came too late, though, as the Oakland Athletics topped the Texas Rangers later on Monday to clinch the AL's final wild card spot.
Ben Zobrist homered and Chris Gimenez hit a two-run double in the victory, while Fernando Rodney stranded the tying runs on base in the ninth inning to record his 47th save of the season.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-11) allowed four runs -- one earned -- on six hits and a walk through 6 2/3 innings for Baltimore, which fell a game behind the Yankees for the top spot in the AL East after New York defeated the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
"We're playing this like every other game we're playing this year," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "We're going out there trying to win every game and we'll forget about this going into tomorrow."
Zobrist broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff blast to left field.
The Orioles stranded a runner on second in the sixth inning before Wieters knotted the game at 1-1 in the seventh with home run over the wall in left field.
But Tampa Bay went back on top in the bottom of the frame as Evan Longoria reached base on third baseman Manny Machado's fielding error, moved to third on a Jeff Keppinger single and raced home on Ben Francisco's sacrifice fly to left field.
Sam Fuld followed with a base hit to right field to place runners on the corners before Gimenez slapped a double into the right-field corner, plating pinch-runner Rich Thompson and Fuld for a 4-1 lead.
"I was just trying to get a pitch to hit," Gimenez said about his double. "Thankfully I was able to do it."
B.J. Upton led off the eighth with a double and later came home on Carlos Pena groundout to increase the Rays' advantage.
Kyle Farnsworth allowed Chris Davis' two-run homer off the catwalk in the ninth inning to bring Baltimore within 5-3.
Rodney entered next and allowed back-to-back singles to Adam Jones and Wieters, but then struck out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds, and induced a grounder back to the mound by pinch-hitter Endy Chavez to end the game.
Cobb has won seven of his last eight decisions ... Chen has not earned a win in seven straight starts ... Baltimore leads the season series between the teams, 9-7 ... The Orioles were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base ... Tampa Bay went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded five.