ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb was tired of answering the questions, seeing the replay and hearing the story. After exactly two months spent recovering from a concussion he suffered on this very mound, he was ready to pitch again.
On Thursday, Cobb took the hill against the Mariners at Tropicana Field, his first outing since being struck in the head by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer's line drive on June 15.
Backed by a sizzling Wil Myers, Cobb reminded the Rays faithful what kind of pitcher he is, allowing just one run -- a Raul Ibanez homer -- through five innings of work in the Rays' 7-1 win over the Mariners.
"I just wanted to be back to normal," Cobb said. "I want to stop talking about it. I want to stop getting attention for anything other than what's going on on the field. I think that we can do that now that this game has passed us."
The win, coupled with a Red Sox loss, puts the Rays two games behind Boston in the American League East.
Cobb knew he would be on a limited pitch count before the game, and he was on thin ice with the game tied in the fifth inning. After two quick outs, Dustin Ackley doubled and Cobb issued walks to Henry Blanco and Brad Miller.
Cobb then buckled down, striking out Nick Franklin on an full-count, 86-mph changeup to escape the bases-loaded jam unscathed.
"That was a very big pitch, because it was kind of eeking away at that point," Maddon said. "That's a huge pitch, because otherwise, we go to the bullpen, and it possibly turns into something different."
And Cobb's teammates came through in the nick of time to make sure he went home with his seventh win of the season.
In the bottom of the fifth, Sam Fuld and Sean Rodriguez started a rally with a pair of singles. Myers -- who went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs -- plated both runners with a double to the left-field corner, before Evan Longoria squared up his 23rd home run, a no-doubter to left field. Mariners starter Joe Saunders was removed for reliever Brandon Maurer after recording one out in the inning.
"It was one of those turning points in the game," Saunders said. "It gave them momentum, and it was hard to recover from that."
In all, Cobb gave up three hits and two walks while striking out six. He threw 88 pitches, 53 of them for strikes, and lowered his ERA to 2.94. He also became the first Rays starter to log a win in August.
Maddon said he saw enough from Cobb to remove the pitch-count restriction in his next outing.
"I got to a point where I know that going forward, I'll be getting better, and I can take a lot of stuff away from tonight's game and put it toward the bullpen session I'm going to have this week and the games that I'm going to be having in the future," Cobb said. "It was a good little step, again. Obviously, I'm not happy just going five. I want to go deeper into the game than that, and I thought I definitely had the opportunity to do that tonight."
After a rough July, Evan Longoria appears to have returned to form.
"That was awesome to see him do that," Myers said of Longoria. "I really feel like that put the game out of reach. He stayed on it, and everybody knew it was gone right off the bat."
The Mariners struck first with Ibanez's solo homer, but the Rays pulled even in the bottom of the third when Jose Lobaton led off the inning by drawing a walk. Back-to-back singles from Rodriguez and Myers scored Fuld.
Tampa Bay padded its lead in the seventh after Maurer hit Myers with a pitch. Longoria and Escobar followed with a pair of singles to score Myers. Then, Myers notched his fourth RBI of the night by plating Lobaton with a double in the eighth.
Myers was called up just after Cobb's injury. In the first Major League game that the righty and the rookie appeared in together, that run support turned out to be much more than Cobb or the Rays' bullpen needed.
"Everybody in the clubhouse was excited he was back, because we knew [Cobb] would give us a good game," said Myers.
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.