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Hometown winner Alex Cobb lost in Red Sox-Rays scuffle

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / May 27, 2012
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Friday’s game at Fenway Park will be remembered by most for the ninth-inning skirmish that emptied both dugouts and bullpens after Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales drilled Rays designated hitter Luke Scott with a purpose pitch.

Alex Cobb will take vastly different memories from the game, though. Tampa Bay’s 7-4 victory gave Cobb - a Boston native who grew up rooting for the Sox - his first win at the park he made annual boyhood pilgrimages to.

Cobb allowed two runs (one earned) in five innings, then watched his bullpen preserve the lead that came from three Rays home runs off Sox starter Jon Lester. It improved Cobb to 2-0, and it came in front of roughly 25 friends and family members.

“Aunts, uncles, cousins, mainly from Worcester and Connecticut,’’ Cobb said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of family and friends in the stands before, so it wasn’t anything too new.’’

After being born in Boston, Cobb moved to Florida with his family as a 2-year-old, but would make summer vacation visits growing up that always included stops at Fenway. The Sox were his favorite team, until he was drafted in the fourth round by the Rays in 2006 out of Vero Beach High School.

Cobb had actually started once before at Fenway, taking the mound for the Hudson Valley Renegades against the Lowell Spinners in a “Futures at Fenway’’ game in 2007. Safe to say there were a few more people in the park Friday.

He wasn’t fooling the Sox much, but benefited from having hard-hit balls find his teammates. Frequently falling behind in the count, Cobb had reached 96 pitches after five innings, and with the Rays ahead, 7-2, he didn’t come out for the sixth inning.

“That game could have gone completely different for me,’’ said Cobb. “Fortunately when they did hit the ball hard it was at people, [manager] Joe [Maddon] had the right shifts in place, and I was able to get some ground balls where the guys were.

“I was able to minimize the damage with the counts I was working myself into. It’s not what you want to get yourself into, but happy with the results.’’

Cobb was unbeaten in his first seven starts last year after being called up to the major leagues for the first time, and finished the season 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts. He’s won both starts this season, allowing just three earned runs in 12 innings.

“I didn’t think Alex had his best stuff, but he kept us in the ballgame for five innings,’’ Maddon said. “He’s a young man in a Fenway situation, trying to earn his stripes, and not entirely comfortable with it. But he fought through it.’’

It took nearly five years for Cobb to get a second start at Fenway Park. The first time, against the Spinners, he threw six scoreless innings but didn’t earn a decision. His numbers might not have been as good the second time, but it was a million times more meaningful. Plus, he got the win.

“It was a lot of fun [in 2007],’’ Cobb said. “But this was fun, too.’’

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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