ST PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 18: : Pitcher Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on July 18, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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ST. PETERSBURG - Alex Cobb pitched a four-hitter for his first major league shutout and the surging Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 5-0 on Thursday night to pull within 2 1/2 games of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East.
Matt Joyce hit a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning against Tyson Ross, hastily called up from the minors to pitch in place of suspended Oakland starter Bartolo Colon.
Cobb (8-8) struck out eight and walked two in his second career complete game, both this season. He bounced back from a poor outing against the Los Angeles Angels to win for the fourth time in five starts.
It was the 14th win in 17 games for the Rays and their seventh shutout since July 19. They have pitched 13 shutouts in all this season, second-most in the majors behind the Angels (15).
Cobb threw a called third strike past Yoenis Cespedes for the final out. As the Rays poured onto the field for handshakes, a group of starting pitchers jumped together and bumped shoulders in excitement.
Matt Moore banged into Cobb and sent him tumbling onto the mound, minus his cap. Still clutching the ball in his glove, Cobb climbed back to his feet and smiled.
It's the closest the Rays have been to first place since they were 2 1/2 games out before games of June 16.
Oakland dropped into a tie with Baltimore and Detroit for the AL's second wild-card spot, 2 1/2 games behind the Rays. The teams finish their three-game series Saturday and get a rare Sunday off because the Republican National Convention begins Monday in Tampa.
The A's did not have a travel day after beating Minnesota at home on Wednesday afternoon.
Luke Scott also doubled for the Rays in the fifth against Ross (2-9), called up from Triple-A Sacramento when Colon received a 50-game suspension Wednesday for testing positive for testosterone. The Rays batted around in the big inning, which also included RBI singles by Sam Fuld and Evan Longoria.
Ryan Roberts broke the scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly.
Ross, making his first start for the A's since June 28, pitched six-plus innings. He gave up nine hits while striking out six.
Stephen Drew had two hits for Oakland, including a fourth-inning single that snapped an 0-for-22 slide. It was his first hit for the A's since he was acquired from Arizona in a trade.
Cobb allowed 12 hits and eight earned runs in 2 2-3 innings at Los Angeles on Saturday night, the only time this month a Rays pitcher has given up more than four runs. The Rays came back from an 8-0 deficit to win that game and take Cobb off the hook.
NOTES: Moore, scheduled to start Friday night against Jarrod Parker, is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his last five starts. ... Oakland manager Bob Melvin said INF Brandon Inge (sprained right shoulder) is ready to start a minor league rehab assignment with Sacramento. ... Athletics RHP A.J. Griffin (right shoulder) allowed three runs and four hits over 2 1-3 innings in his first rehab start Wednesday night for Sacramento.
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