Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, left, fields a ball hit by San Diego Padres' Everth Cabrera as Chris Denorfia rounds the bases behind him during the fourth inning of an interleague baseball game, Friday, May 10, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Some of the San Diego Padres called it a split-finger fastball, others called it a changeup.
Whatever it was that Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb was throwing Friday night, the Padres were swinging and missing.
Cobb struck out 13 in fewer than five innings and Ryan Roberts and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs apiece to help the Rays rally for a 6-3 victory.
Cobb became the first pitcher in major league history to fan that many batters and fail to make it through the fifth inning. The right-hander faced 23 batters and left after throwing 117 pitches in 4 2-3 innings. He recorded 12 of 14 outs on strikeouts — four of them in the third, when a wild pitch on strike three allowed Will Venable to reach base.
The other outs were recorded on grounders to shortstop in the first and to third base in the fourth. The Padres struck out 18 times overall in losing for only the fourth time in their last 15 games.
"I bet (Cobb) threw 15 fastballs the whole game," said Chase Headley, who struck out three times. "He just threw split-finger after split-finger and he was throwing where he wanted. It had good action on it.
"He's throwing everything at the knees — the fastball's staying at the knees, the split-finger's going underneath the knees," Headley said. "That's baseball sometimes; you tip your cap when a guy does that to you and you come ready to play tomorrow."
Venable, who hit one of Cobb's fastballs for a first-inning home run and later scored on a balk to give San Diego a 3-0 lead, said the Padres could not adjust to what Cobb was throwing.
"He had his changeup going and it was tough to differentiate that from the fastball, and he had us on our heels the whole night," Venable said.
Roberts and Zobrist broke the game open for the Rays with two-run singles in the seventh, when reliever Dale Thayer (0-2) inherited a 3-2 lead from Padres starter Edinson Volquez. Jake McGee (1-2) pitched one inning for the victory, and Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.
Venable and Carlos Quentin hit solo homers off Cobb in the first for San Diego. Chris Denorfia also singled twice off the Tampa Bay starter, who allowed three runs, five hits, one walk and hit a batter.
Trailing 3-2, Cobb struck out Headley and Quentin to begin the fifth. He was removed after walking Yonder Alonso, ending a streak of Tampa Bay starting pitchers working at least five innings in every game this season at 34 — the second-longest stretch to begin a season, behind the 1981 Pittsburgh Pirates (45).
Cobb never had the lead in his record-setting game, in which he became the second Rays pitcher to strike out four in an inning. Venable led off the third by striking out on a pitch that didn't reach the plate. He reached on the wild pitch, stole two bases and scored on a balk while Cobb fanned the next three hitters.
"That's a play you don't see," said Padres manager Bud Black, "but if you come to a major league game every night, you might see something new, and you saw it tonight."
Umpires Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O'Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson worked the game. Earlier in the day, Major League Baseball suspended Culbreth for two games because he was in charge of the crew when it allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning on Thursday.
Culbreth, O'Nora, Welke and Johnson were also fined an undisclosed amount after MLB admitted its umpires made a mistake for the second straight day.
"I look at it that baseball has high standards for their umpires and I have high standards for myself and I didn't meet those standards last night, so I am absolutely OK with everything," Culbreth said to a pool reporter.
NOTES: RHP Burch Smith will make his major league debut for the Padres on Saturday night. The 23-year-old was called up from Double-A San Antonio, where he was 1-2 with a 1.15 ERA in six starts. Black has seen Smith pitch only once, in the 2011 Arizona Instructional League, and Smith has not pitched at the Triple-A level. "I'm happy for him," Black said. "Our minor league people thought that he was the guy, so we'll see it (Saturday)." ... The Rays placed RHP Brandon Gomes on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 8, with a strained muscle in his right side. To fill his spot in the bullpen, RHP Josh Lueke was recalled from Triple-A Durham. ... Tampa Bay C Jose Molina is day to day with a bruised right knee. He was injured when he was hit by a foul tip during Thursday night's victory over Toronto.