Cobb strikes out 12, Rays win 5-1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Alex Cobb pitched, Ben Zobrist hit and the Tampa Bay Rays won again.
Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was the Rays' 11th in 12 games and it moved them within one game of .500 (53-54) for the first time since April 23.
''This is the team we are,'' said Zobrist, who drove in the Rays' first two runs with a home run and a double. ''We knew that this is the team we could be in spring training. It just took a long time for it to show up.
''From here on out, I don't think we're ever going to return to the way we were playing before June 11.''
Since that date the Rays are 29-12, the best record in the majors over that span.
Cobb struck out 12 in eight innings and won his third straight start, attaining a winning record (7-6) for the first time this season.
''I wish it would have happened sooner, but when you go into a rut you learn a lot about yourself mechanically,'' he said. ''But it does feel like I'm starting to get in the groove again. Right now everybody's clicking and it'll make for a nice run.''
With the Brewers up 1-0 in the sixth, Zobrist hit his ninth homer, the only run off Milwaukee starter Matt Garza. Zobrist's double in the eighth off reliever Will Smith (1-3) put the Rays ahead for the first time. Pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe followed with another RBI double and the Rays broke it open with a four-run inning.
Garza, who pitched for the Rays for three seasons, gave up five hits and two walks in seven innings, striking out two.
''I knew runs were going to be at a minimum,'' he said. ''We lost to a team that's really, really hot right now. You make a mistake and they make you pay for it.''
Cobb, who is 5-0 in his last six starts, gave up only three hits and two walks before Grant Balfour finished it for Tampa Bay.
''We're playing for the World Series,'' declared Rays manager Joe Maddon. ''That's our objective from Day One, to get to the playoffs and World Series. That has not changed. I'm telling you our record is not reflecting it yet, but if we keep playing like this it soon shall.''
The Brewers, who have lost four of five, have scored two runs and had 12 hits in their last three games while striking out 30 times.
Scooter Gennett drove in Milwaukee's run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth after a leadoff single by Aramis Ramirez.
Brewers: The team expects to make a decision soon about the roster status of reliever Jim Henderson, who pitched in a rehab game late Tuesday.
Rays: Outfielder Wil Myers (broken right wrist) plans to take batting practice Saturday. Catcher Ryan Hanigan (strained left oblique) is sore after two days of batting practice and is expected to remain out until next week.
Brewers: Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (5-5) makes his first start against Tampa Bay Wednesday.
Rays: Left-hander David Price (11-7) looks to win his seventh consecutive start Wednesday.
STRANGE TIME TO GET TOSSED
Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar was ejected by umpire Bob Davidson during the Rays' eighth-inning rally for arguing a called strike with the bases loaded. It was the third time Escobar has been ejected this season and the second time in a week.