ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb gave the Rays a quality start and the offense overcame some missed opportunities en route to a 6-0 win over the Indians on Saturday night at Tropicana Field.
Making his first start of the season, Cobb picked up where he left off during a successful spring campaign. The 25-year-old right-hander held the Indians to no runs on four hits in 7 1/3 innings to pick up the win.
Cobb "started out like gangbusters," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Everything was working -- the fastball, the comebacker on the front hip of the lefties, really good curve, good changeup. He got a little bit out of rhythm but then he found it once again. That's what he's been doing the entire camp this Spring Training. He looked very, very good. Confidence is soaring and that's a great first game to build off."
When Cobb wasn't using his arm, he came through with his backside. He resembled a power forward boxing out in the paint when using his posterior to stop Jason Kipnis' shot to the mound in the sixth. Unfazed, he picked up the ball and threw to first for the second out of the inning.
Cobb improved to 8-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his last 12 starts dating back to Aug. 1, and he managed to raise the bar among the starters following Matt Moore's solid performance Friday night.
"We're always having a little friendly competition among the starters," Cobb said. "I think every time any of us get the ball every night, we're trying to go nine. Same with me tonight. If I don't have those three walks, probably could have a pretty decent chance at that. It's something to work at throughout the year."
The Indians were shut out in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 27-28, 2012.
"We're scuffling a little bit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "At the beginning of the season, those types of things tend to get exaggerated because it's early. ... As cold as guys get, they can get just as hot. That'll happen."
Early scoring opportunities eluded the Rays in a fashion that suggested they might haunt them later in the game.
In the first, Indians starter Trevor Bauer walked the bases loaded with no outs before walking Evan Longoria to bring home Desmond Jennings with the Rays' first run.
Bauer appeared to be on the ropes, but the Rays let the right-hander off the hook. James Loney popped out, then Yunel Escobar lined out to Ryan Raburn. Matt Joyce tagged at third and tried to score, but Raburn threw a strike to Lou Marson and the veteran catcher applied the tag to Joyce for the third out.
Jennings walked to start the third. But after stealing second and third, he tried to score when Joyce hit a grounder to third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who threw home to Marson. Jennings took a more direct approach than Joyce, driving through Marson. The catcher held onto the ball, but had to leave the game with a cervical/neck strain before the start of the next inning.
"I thought I could beat the play home," Jennings said. "I looked to see if I could go either way and I couldn't."
Jennings was surprised he did not jar the ball loose.
"Yeah, I looked for the ball after the play was over," Jennings said. "It was a good play by him."
Marson called it a clean play.
"He had nowhere to go," Marson said. "I had the plate blocked pretty good."
In the fourth, the Rays finally pushed Bauer off the tightrope he'd been walking. Jose Molina collected the Rays' first hit when he singled to left with one out. Moments later, Kelly Johnson connected on an 0-1 pitch from Bauer and drove the ball over the wall near the right-field foul pole for a 3-0 lead.
"Obviously, it felt like we should have had about that 3-0 lead a couple of innings before then anyway," said Johnson. "Good time to break it open and put a little more distance between us."
Escobar drove a hit to center off Matt Albers to start the sixth and successfully stretched the hit into a double, though replays suggested otherwise. Shelley Duncan then drove him home with a single to the gap in right-center field to put the Rays up 4-0.
The Rays went on to load the bases with one out, but Albers struck out Joyce for the second out before retiring Ben Zobrist on a groundout to end the inning -- and Albers' outing. Escobar's double obviously festered in Albers' craw, which prompted him to offer his candid opinion to second base umpire CB Bucknor, earning Albers an ejection from the game.
Loney laced a double to left-center in the ninth to drive home Joyce and Longoria and extend the lead to 6-0.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.