ST. PETERSBURG — One horse is out of the barn.
It’s galloping away at top speed, mid-90s on my gun.
The Rays are hoofing toward bad old days, old-time Devil Rays religion.
They’ve lost four straight and 11 of 15 after Wednesday’s 3-2 abomination against the A’s. They’re last in the AL East, which really takes some doing these days, and nine games below .500 for the first time since 2007, before the magic show began.
But here’s a horse that can only help:
Alex Cobb is back.
Can he bat cleanup?
Cobb returns from the disabled list this afternoon to face Oakland, his first appearance since he threw seven shutout innings in an April 12 win at Cincinnati — and went on the DL with an oblique strain the next day. It was just another brick in the wall the increasingly helpless Rays are staring at today.
The only American League team with a worse record is the Astros. We are officially in the Finding New Ways to Lose portion of the program. Wednesday, five Rays pitchers combined to throw a one-hitter and ...
By the way, according to the A’s media relations department, it’s the first time an Athletics team has won a regular-season with just one hit in at least 100 years. Regular-season game records apparently don’t go back before 1914. I think there are just cave drawings of Home Run Baker slaying a woolly mammoth.
But Alex Cobb is back.
You can say David Price is the Rays’ ace, No. 1, but Cobb is 1A — or maybe Price is 1A. Cobb was this team’s best and most consistent starting pitcher in 2013, going 5-1 down the stretch after missing 50 games after being clobbered in the head by a line drive, plus those six-plus shutout innings to win the AL wild-card game in Cleveland. His makeup alone says he’s eventually going to be The Man around here.
Well, here the man is, ready, willing and finally able after missing more than a month.
“I think I’m feeling really comfortable with all my pitches right now,” Cobb said.
“I feel I should pick up, not right where I left off, but pretty close.”
Yes, Alex Cobb is back.
He isn’t enough.
True, he might pitch into the seventh inning, a novelty at this point for Rays starters.
He still isn’t enough.
Not with this now-bumbling Rays team.
All you needed to do was peek at the Rays’ batting order Wednesday.
Wil Myers leading off, Evan Longoria hitting second.
Wednesday’s 1-2 was Joe Maddon’s attempt to jump-start the L&M Boys, who have struggled mightily, except when Myers sees the whites of the Yankees’ eyes. Longoria went 0-for-3 but did walk and score a run. Myers got two hits. He also struck out to end the game.
And there was Brandon Guyer (.204) in the cleanup spot because he actually has been one of the team’s better hitters lately. And there was the Rays DH, Logan Forsythe (.179), currently a hitter by designation only.
What can Alex Cobb do about that?
He’s a gamer, but a realistic one.
“There’s definitely no weight to that, pressure wise, for me,” Cobb said. “I’m going to give everything I have every fifth day, but there’s a lot more to a rhythm of a team than one guy going every five days. I’m going to do whatever I can, and whatever plays off of that, great. One thing I can’t do is go out there and try to win five games at a time. It’s going to be one game at a time.”
The Rays get a horse back today.
But it will take more than Alex Cobb to rein in this runaway nightmare.