Just another shutout for Alex Cobb and the Rays

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The Rays (17) and the Indians (16) were the only American League teams to throw 15 shutouts this season, so it’s fitting that the wild card turned into another one.

Pitching himself into and out of trouble, Alex Cobb scattered eight hits in 6 2/3 innings before leaving with a 3-0 lead. Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney finished up from there as the Rays topped the Tribe 4-0 to advance to the ALDS and play Boston on Friday.

The 25-year-old Cobb was involved in four of the Rays’ regular-season shutouts, though he never completed any of them himself (his lone complete game actually came in a 2-1 loss to the A’s). The teams on the other end of those shutouts: the Indians, the Yankees, the Tigers and then the Yankees again. Overall, Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA. He may well have been a Cy Young contender if not for the liner that brought his season to a screaming half on June 15. The complete-game loss is his only defeat in 18 starts since the beginning of May.

Now the Rays get the difficult assignment of facing the Red Sox without either of their top two starters being available in Game 1 on Friday. Matt Moore, who has been very shaky of late, will get the ball in that one. David Price, who went the distance in the one-game playoff against the Rangers on Monday, should come back for Game 2. Cobb will likely follow in Game 3, unless the Rays want to give him an extra day off and use Chris Archer then.

There is one big plus for the Rays; because MLB couldn’t help itself and there are four days between Games 2 and 5, Price could come back for the finale on regular rest, should the series get that far.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?