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Rays blank Indians, advance to ALDS
Cleveland, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Rays survived their third must-win road game in four days on the backs of an inexperienced starter and an opportunistic offense.
Alex Cobb tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, Delmon Young belted a solo homer and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run double to carry the Rays into the AL Division Series with a 4-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Joe Maddon gave the ball to an untested Cobb (1-0) for the wild card showdown, and the right-hander delivered for his manager in his first playoff start, scattering eight hits and a walk while working out of several jams.
The Rays' season nearly ended Sunday, but they kept it alive by winning the last game of the regular season in Toronto. A day later, they clinched their fourth postseason trip in six years by upending the Texas Rangers in a one- game tiebreaker to capture the AL's second wild card spot.
"That's three different difficult venues...all in enemy territory," Maddon said of his club's recent stretch. "I'm so proud of our guys. It was outstanding to watch and I was very proud."
The club will happily stay on the road for the ALDS, with their series against the Red Sox starting in Boston on Friday.
Two days after knocking out Texas' Martin Perez early, Tampa Bay did the same to another rookie in Danny Salazar.
Salazar (0-1), who started the season in Double-A and deservedly worked his way into the Indians' rotation, lasted just four-plus innings and surrendered three runs on four hits and a pair of walks.
Cleveland, in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 thanks to a 10-game winning streak to end the regular season, fell down early, squandered several opportunities in the middle innings and saw its three top hitters in the lineup go a combined 0-for-12 with 12 left on base.
"We knew what we were getting into today, and they outplayed us," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We lost, now we have to go home and that hurts."
Young, the MVP of last year's ALCS for the Tigers, silenced a loud Progressive Field crowd in the third inning with a thunderous smash deep into the left- field seats. It was the ninth career postseason home run for Young and came less than two months after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies.
A few more veterans announced their presence in the fourth, as James Loney and Evan Longoria hit back-to-back singles before both scoring on Jennings' two- out double down the left-field line.
Cobb, the unblinking newcomer in Tampa Bay's latest October run, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Asdrubal Cabrera to bounce into an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. Ben Zobrist made a run-saving diving stop during the inning on a ball hit up the middle by Michael Brantley.
Cleveland had three more chances with the top of its lineup in its next at-bat thanks to a leadoff double by Yan Gomes and a single by Lonnie Chisenhall.
Cobb, however, came away unscathed again. Michael Bourn went down swinging, Nick Swisher grounded out to first -- with Loney throwing home to keep Gomes from scoring -- and Jason Kipnis hit a harmless tapper back to the mound.
In keeping with the theme, the Indians put two on with one out in the seventh and did not cash in. Cobb retired the last batter he faced, Bourn, on a flyout, and Joel Peralta threw three pitches past Nick Swisher to end another threat.
Chisenhall robbed Longoria of a run-scoring hit in the eighth, but had a chopper off Young's bat glance off the top of his glove an inning later to put runners on the corners with one out.
The error proved costly as Yunel Escobar followed with an RBI single, and Fernando Rodney retired the side in order to finish off the shutout.
Young has accounted for the winning RBI in each of his teams' last five playoff wins ... The Rays threw a club-record 17 shutouts during the regular season ... Cobb, whose season was almost derailed back in June when he was hit in the face with a line drive, was unbeaten in September, going 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five starts ... The Rays have won nine in a row against teams over .500 ... The Indians were 51-30 at home this season ... Chisenhall had three of Cleveland's nine hits.
10/03 00:14:45 ET