CINCINNATI -- The middle game of the Rays-Reds series Saturday afternoon brought another pitching duel, along with defense. Plenty of defense.
Alex Cobb started for the Rays, squaring off against Alfredo Simon, and lots of zeros followed. Like his teammate David Price did Friday night when he bested Reds ace Johnny Cueto, Cobb earned the win Saturday afternoon.
The Rays claimed their second consecutive victory by defeating the Reds, 1-0, with 35,356 watching. Tampa Bay is 3-2 on the current nine-game road trip, while moving to 7-5 on the season.
Cobb allowed no runs on four hits and a hit batter, while striking out five en route to his first win of the season. He is now 5-1 in career Interleague games.
Cobb felt like he mixed his pitches well on Saturday.
"I saw how David attacked in and out of the zone yesterday," Cobb said. "With this team, you know you can dabble outside the zone, but you really do have to show that you can work outside the zone also.
"They're an aggressive team, so ... I could expand out of the zone a little bit and went with that until I proved that I could come in the zone also."
Entering Saturday afternoon's game, the Rays had not scored while Cobb was on the mound this season. That changed with just one mistake by Simon in the second. That's when James Loney homered on an 0-1 pitch to lead off the inning. When the ball landed 412 feet away in the right-field stands, the Rays had the lead and Cobb had all the run support he needed.
"It was a split," Simon said. "I just missed it. Right in the middle. That's baseball. Then after that, I tried to keep the ball down. Everything was working."
Loney's home run stood as the only blemish against Simon, who allowed five hits and a walk while striking out four. Stellar defensive plays were seen throughout the game.
The Reds stole base hits from back-to-back hitters in the fourth. First, Loney lined out to Joey Votto, who stabbed the shot at his shoe tops before it could get down the right-field line. Second baseman Brandon Phillips then dove to his left to rob Kevin Kiermaier of a single.
Kiermaier returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning when Phillips singled through the middle. The rookie center fielder charged the ball, scooped it up and threw a strike to catcher Ryan Hanigan, who was waiting with the tag for Votto when he arrived at home.
"That's the play of the game; that's the play of the season so far. ... He's an exceptional outfielder," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's among the best already and he's not even playing in the big leagues. He's among the best Major League outfielders today and he's only played one game here actually in the regular season. His throw was that important to us today."
Kiermaier, who was optioned back to Triple-A Durham after the game, was all smiles when asked about his big play.
"Defense is my bread and butter," Kiermaier said. "I take a lot of pride in it and any time I have a chance to throw a guy out, I want to make it happen, because I feel like I should do it more times than not.
"Once [the ball] left my hand and I saw Ryan scoop it up and put the tag on him, it felt great. Little did I know that would be a huge play in the game. That felt phenomenal."
Hanigan threw out Phillips trying to steal third for the second out of the fourth, stifling what had appeared to be a promising inning for the Reds.
"When you get picked up by your defense like that, like I did that whole inning ... it's hard not to get a little extra motivation going," Cobb said.
Evan Longoria added to the Rays' superlative defensive effort when he dove to his left to grab a Ryan Ludwick shot, then threw to second base from his knees to get the forceout at to end the seventh. Any game that features so many fielding gems had to end with something of the leather variety, and it did.
Phillips grounded into a 5-4-3 game-ending double-play that Loney scooped at first for the final out, earning closer Grant Balfour his fourth save and second in as many games.
"Plays all over the place," Maddon said. "Longo at third. Loney at first. Plays all over the place. It was really a fabulous game. Hanigan blocking balls -- he blocked a run out, threw a runner out at third base. We talk about pitching and defense all the time; it showed up today again."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.