With the season slipping away and a last-place team in town to start a crucial homestand the Tampa Bay Rays finally showed some fight. Unfortunately it was between the starting pitcher and his catcher.
As for the bats, not so much.
If Monday’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox, which dropped the Rays further out of the playoff picture, is remembered for anything it will be for the altercation in the dugout between Alex Cobb and Jose Molina that occurred after the Red Sox went ahead in the top of the sixth inning and ended when pitching coach Jim Hickey stepped between the two.
"The one thing I want to be clear is, I wouldn’t approach a teammate in the dugout like that. That was not instigated by me," Cobb said.
When asked if he wanted to share his version of the incident, Molina said, "Nope," and walked out of the clubhouse.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said the incident was solved before Cobb returned to the mound to start the seventh inning.
"We discussed everything. It’s all good," Maddon said. "You had it in your households, yelled at the kids, haven’t you? The kids did something naughty, and you straighten it out and everything is fine, and it’s a happy family again."
It wasn’t clear after the game which party did something naughty.
Molina had trouble with a pitch during the sixth inning that bounced away and was ruled a wild pitch. He later tried to frame a pitch only to have it zip under his mitt and through his legs for a passed ball.
"Those pitches had nothing to do with it," Cobb said.
While Maddon said the incident was solved, Cobb said he had not discussed it with Molina.
"I didn’t say a word to Molina coming off the mound. I don’t really know what that was about," Cobb said. "Probably not the best place to be doing that. But we’ll talk about it (today)."
The Rays had a 1-0 lead and Cobb was working on a no-hitter entering the sixth inning. Cobb got the first out but hit No. 9 hitter Jose Iglesis with a pitch. Iglesias moved to second on a groundout and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
That’s when Jacoby Ellsbury turned on a 3-1 fastball from Cobb and drove it into the right-center field seats to end the no-hitter, the shutout and the Rays' chances of a much-needed victory.
"It wasn’t a horrible pitch," Cobb said. "It was just a 3-1 count, an obvious fastball count. Major league hitters of his caliber don’t miss those. If I get ahead of him and make that same pitch then I’m probably looking a lot better and (have a) better outcome."
Cobb walked Dustin Pedroia after Ellsbury’s home run. Pedroia easily stole second then moved to third on the passed ball.
Cobb got out of the inning and returned to the mound for the seventh inning. He left the game after allowing the first two batters to reach base in what became a three-run inning for Boston.
He said what happened between innings had nothing to do with his being unable to record an out in the seventh.
"We’re both professionals," Cobb said. "Those kinds of blowups happen throughout the course of the year and they have, so you put it behind you. You don’t need to be best friends with somebody to go out and work together. That didn’t affect me going into the seventh inning, although it looked like it may have.
"It had nothing to do with that."
Maddon said he didn’t have a problem with the fact two of his players needed to be separated in the dugout.
"I’m not unhappy. (Matt) Garza and (Dioner) Navarro had a nice little spat several years ago in Texas. That’s overblown sometimes," Maddon said. "That can actually be a good thing. It’s fine right now. It’s very fine."
What’s not fine is the Rays' playoff chances.
They lost for the sixth time in their last seven games and eighth in their last 11. They now trail the first place Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the American League East and the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot by five games.
The Rays also trail the Los Angeles Angels, who are third in the wild card standings, by two games.
Coming off a 1-5 road trip, the Rays began a seven-game homestand Monday with the first of four games against the Red Sox, losers 14 of their previous 18 games, and a team whose September roster, according to Boston manager Bobby Valentine is the "weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball," before retracting his statement a few days later.
Against that team the Rays turned in what appeared to be an uninspired effort.
"It looks that way, but it’s all about not hitting," Maddon said. "When you don’t hit it always gives that appearance that you don’t care, there’s no intensity. That’s just not true."
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Luke Scott and Carlos Peña singled and Ryan Roberts drove in a run with a squeeze bunt. Peña and Roberts tried a double-steal with Molina at the plate, but Peña was thrown out at third because Maddon said Molina missed the sign and didn’t swing.
"Everything started to roll there a little bit then the fact that he gets thrown out on a no swing hit-and-run … I was willing to take that chance," Maddon said.
"When you’re not scoring enough runs, you’ll take chances, I’ll take chances, we’ll take chances to try and create stuff … Everything works and then you miss an assignment and then it goes away."