ST. PETERSBURG -- Homers and a healthy dose of Alex Cobb led the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
The Rays are one game back of the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot, and they remain 1 1/2 games back of the top Wild Card spot, held by the Yankees, with whom the Rays begin a four-game series on Thursday.
"A lot better to get on a flight after a win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "A lot of good things to like today."
Trailing 1-0 against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who struck out a season-high nine, entering the sixth inning, Evan Longoria got the Rays' bats going with two outs and a man aboard. Longoria rerouted a 1-1 fastball 402 feet into the left-field stands, giving him 15 home runs for the season and the Rays a 2-1 lead.
"I wouldn't call it a mistake, because I wanted it inside and it was inside," Jimenez said of the pitch to Longoria. "He looked like he was looking for it, and he just put a good swing [on it]. He's a good hitter."
Steven Souza Jr. hit a solo shot off Darren O'Day in seventh to give the Rays some insurance. Then in the ninth, Logan Morrison added an RBI single and Souza's RBI fielder's choice gave the game its final score.
On the mound, Cobb continues to pitch well for the Rays. He allowed one run on four hits and a walk, striking out six to pick up his ninth win of the season. The only blemish on Cobb's line came when Jonathan Schoop broke up a scoreless tie with his 22nd homer of the season.
"I have no idea what we'd do without [Cobb]," Cash said. "The way he goes out and performs, we are in every single ballgame he pitches."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the game was "statistically" a letdown, as the Orioles registered just six hits on the afternoon. Baltimore was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"I know [Cobb's] in the top 10 … in the American League [in ERA], and that's really hard to do, in the American League especially," Showalter said. "That's a convenient excuse, but those are the types of games you'd like a way to scratch out a couple more [runs]."
Added center fielder Adam Jones, "We hit the balls hard. We had good at-bats. It's not like they had 12 strikeouts. They threw strikes and we put the ball in play."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Longo goes deep: The Rays trailed 1-0 with two outs in the sixth before Longoria stepped to the plate with a runner on base. The count reached 1-1 when the Rays' third baseman jumped on an 89-mph fastball and deposited it 402 feet into the left-field stands. The barreled ball had an exit velocity of 109.9 mph, Longoria's hardest-hit home run since Statcast™ started tracking hits, with a 25-degree launch angle. More >
Souza Separation: Souza was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Jimenez heading into his at-bat in the seventh against O'Day. Souza jumped on an 80.6-mph slider and rode the pitch 447 feet to left field. The barreled ball had a 112.3-mph exit velocity with a 28-degree launch angle. It was Souza's 21st home run of the season.
"That's in my job description. Without starting pitching going deep into games and doing that consistently, we won't have much of a team here. I think every guy on the staff has realized that and embraced that." -- Cobb, on bringing consistency to the rotation
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Souza's homer hit the catwalk in left field, the seventh fair ball to hit a catwalk this season and fifth home run.
Orioles: The Orioles travel to Arlington for a three-game series against the Rangers, starting Friday at 8:05 p.m. ET. Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.01 ERA) takes the mound looking to rekindle the success he found on July 17th against the Rangers, when he threw six innings of one-run ball.
Rays:Chris Archer (7-6, 3.77) gets the nod Thursday at Yankee Stadium when the Rays open a four-game series against the Yankees at 7:05 p.m. ET. Archer is riding a run of five consecutive quality starts. He struck out 11 in his last start Saturday night against the Rangers.
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