Cobb, who missed a chunk of the regular season after he was hit in the head by a line drive, quieted a thundering Cleveland crowd and ended the Indians’ unexpected season.
Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar as the Rays, playing in their third city over four days, advanced to face the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in the division series starting Friday.
Cobb’s comeback in August from his frightening injury helped stabilize the Rays, who have spent the past two weeks winning crucial games to make the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
Cobb said two months of rest might have helped, but he was also driven to pitch in the postseason after missing out in 2011 when he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his ribs.
“Watching the postseason and just the feeling of being left out is indescribable,” he said. “It’s a terrible feeling that you don’t want to have again, so I think it was extra motivation to get back and it definitely fueled the fire even more to get back to the postseason and know that we have a special group that can go far.”
Cleveland manager Terry Francona had no hesitation in handing the ball to Salazar, an unflappable 23-year-old who began the season at Double-A Akron, but zoomed to the majors and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his debut.
The Rays had never faced him before Wednesday, but scored three runs off him in his four innings of work.