While the Tampa Bay Rays recently moved their ace, Alex Cobb has been pitching like one of late.
Big-name acquisition Jeff Samardzija has mostly performed well since joining the Oakland Athletics.
Looking to win a sixth consecutive decision, Cobb takes the mound opposite Samardzija as the Rays open a three-game set in Oakland on Monday night.
Cobb (7-6, 3.54 ERA) hasn't lost since June 23, going 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA over his last six starts. The right-hander has struck out 39 and walked eight over that stretch spanning 37 1-3 innings.
After striking out 10 over seven innings in a 3-0 win at St. Louis on July 23, Cobb fanned a season-high 12 in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over Milwaukee. He yielded one run and three hits over eight innings in his longest outing of the year.
"The last couple of games, Cobber's been about as good as he can be," manager Joe Maddon told MLB's official website. "That changeup, right now, is pretty spectacular."
With David Price now in Detroit, Cobb suddenly becomes Tampa Bay's No. 1 option.
"The feel in the clubhouse has been passed down to us," he said. "It's been established many years ago. It's just our job to continue that."
Cobb is 3-1 with a 1.42 ERA against the A's since 2012. He held them to three hits over 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 5-2, 11-inning home win May 22. Josh Reddick is 0 for 12 in their matchups while Josh Donaldson and John Jaso are both 2 for 10.
"Obviously, when you're going up against a really good hitting team like Oakland, you have to make sure that you're extra sharp," Cobb said.
Samardzija (2-1, 3.19) has posted a 0.82 WHIP and .203 opponents' batting average in five starts since coming over from the Chicago Cubs on July 4. The right-hander yielded four runs over 6 2-3 innings and came away with a no-decision after Oakland scored six in the ninth to win 7-4 at Houston on Tuesday.
"I'm not happy with how I pitched, but to keep it close and give these guys a chance, sometimes that's all I need," he said.
Samardzija will get his first look at the Rays (54-57), who have followed an 11-1 surge by dropping three of four. Tampa Bay left 12 on base in Sunday's 7-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rays play their next 10 on the road, where they've won a franchise record-tying eight straight and 13 of their last 14.
Oakland (67-43) has also lost three of four after falling 4-2 to Kansas City on Sunday. Reddick provided all the offense with a pair of homers as the club's Nos. 1-6 hitters went a combined 0 for 21.
"We just haven't been our best offensively here," said manager Bob Melvin, whose club is batting .176 in its last four games.
Reddick is hitting .410 with four homers and 10 runs over his last 11 games, but he's 4 for his last 47 with 17 strikeouts against Tampa Bay.
Oakland has won five of six in the series, including two of three on the road in May.
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