CINCINNATI (AP) — The starter throws seven shutout innings. The defense makes a few big plays. One swing of the bat provides all the offense needed.
Not a very flashy way to win, but it’s working for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Alex Cobb went seven innings on Saturday, extending Tampa Bay’s run of solid starting pitching, and James Loney homered for a 1-0 victory over the slumping Cincinnati Reds.
The Rays came into the interleague series with a 1-8 mark against Cincinnati. They’ve taken the first two games with their simple formula.
“We hit some balls well, they hit some balls well, their defense played great also,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “So just one of those days, man. We hit a homer and we win.”
Cobb (1-1) pitched seven shutout inning against Texas on Sunday but got a no-decision. He kept the scoreless streak going Saturday, limiting Cincinnati’s struggling lineup to four hits without walking a batter. He’s now gone 15 1-3 innings without allowing a run.
Grant Balfour, who fanned Brayan Pena with the bases loaded to end Friday night’s game, got three outs for his fourth save in as many chances, finishing off the four-hitter.
Cincinnati stranded a pair at third base and had runners thrown out at third and home, extending its run of wasteful offense.
The Reds have lost all four of their series this season, falling to 3-8 for the first time since 1995, when they won the NL Central. They had a brief team meeting after the game.
“It was just a friendly reminder of what we’ve got here and who we are as a team,” Pena said. “It was a very positive meeting. The skipper (Bryan Price) got involved.”
Loney led off the second inning with his first homer against Alfredo Simon (1-1), who matched his career high with eight innings and allowed only five hits.
The Rays opened the series with a 2-1 win Friday night, when David Price took a shutout into the ninth before Joey Votto homered with one out. Rays starters have thrown at least seven shutout innings four times in the last six games.
It was Tampa Bay’s second shutout of the season, and the second time the Reds have been shut out. The Reds also were blanked 1-0 by the Cardinals on opening day.
Both managers changed their lineups, looking for some runs.
The Rays have scored only nine in their last six games, but managed to win three of them because of the impressive pitching. The Reds have scored 28 runs all season, second-fewest in the National League.
Maddon stocked his lineup with left-handers against Simon. Price moved Votto from third to second in the batting order, the first time he’d batted second since 2008.
Neither move made much of a difference. Nice defense by both teams also kept it close.
Votto led off the fourth with a ground-rule double. Kevin Kiermaier threw out Votto at the plate as he tried to score on Brandon Phillips’ single to center. Phillips went to second on the play and was thrown out trying to steal third.
“Kiermaier’s throw today was the play of the game, the play of the season so far,” Maddon said. “He’s an exceptional outfielder. He’s among the best major league outfielders today and he’s only played one game here in the regular season.”
Kiermaier was optioned back to Triple-A Durham after the game, as expected. His throw home in the fourth was a good way to leave.
“I wanted to come up here and contribute any way I could,” said Kiermaier, who was called up Friday and told he’d be in the majors for only a couple of days. “For me to throw Votto out at home, especially in a 1-0 game, just made it that much better. It was a pivotal time in the game.”
The Reds wasted another chance in the sixth, when Zack Cozart was hit by a pitch and advanced on a wild pitch and a sacrifice. Billy Hamilton hit a shallow fly and Votto grounded out.
NOTES: LHP Erik Bedard was added to the Rays’ roster following the game. … LHP Cesar Ramos moves from the bullpen to the rotation on Sunday, taking the place of injured Matt Moore. Ramos will make his fourth career start. Reds LHP Tony Cingrani makes his first career appearance against the Rays. … Reds RHP Mat Latos had an MRI on his pitching forearm. It bothered him during a throwing session the previous day. Latos is trying to recover from surgery to repair torn knee cartilage on Feb. 14.