ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Kansas City Royals wouldn't typically feel relief after losing a game and a franchise-record pitching streak.
But once they learned that Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb suffered only a mild concussion after taking a line drive to the head, Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Rays was an afterthought.
Cobb seemed to be OK after being taken off the field on a stretcher in the fifth inning. He was hit directly on the right ear by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer.
"I obviously didn't even want to run to first," Hosmer said. "I just wanted to see how he was doing. You hate to see that, especially Alex having a great year. It's just scary stuff, man. I'm glad he's all right. I know ... he's been talking and having conversations."
Cobb put a hand on his head after being struck. Trainers from both teams and other medical staff immediately ran onto the field. Cobb could be seen kicking his legs while being examined on the mound.
"You can't hit a ball harder than Hos hit that ball," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "He hit it so hard (Cobb) couldn't even react, and it makes everybody in the stadium sick to their stomach when something like that happens."
The Rays announced that Cobb remained conscious and was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg for further examination.
Players on both teams had hands on their heads as a stunned silence overtook Tropicana Field.
"I think it kind of deflated the entire stadium, to be honest. It deflated the benches. There wasn't a lot of talk going around because, what is there to say?" said Royals second baseman Elliot Johnson, a close friend and former teammate of Cobb. "Things get real really quick, if that makes any sense. The game isn't as important as his life, his livelihood and his future."
The incident came 39 days after Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ was also struck, on the same mound, by a liner against the Rays and suffered a skull fracture. Happ was discharged from an area hospital the following day.
The sound of the ball striking Cobb — which sounded like a bat hitting a ball — could be heard in the press box. Rays players, manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey gathered at the mound during the 11-minute delay. Shortstop Yunel Escobar was in a squatting position looking down at the ground.
It has been a tough week for Cobb, who left the team after starting Monday night's game against Boston due to the death of his grandmother. He was informed of the death after the game in which the 25-year old gave up a season-high six runs over four innings in a 10-8, 14-inning loss to the Red Sox.
Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said all tests were normal and that Cobb suffered a mild concussion.
Tampa Bay pitcher David Price visited Cobb in the hospital and tweeted: "Cobber is way more tough than me!! Laughing at jokes and the name they gave him!! Please keep him and his family in your prayers."
Luke Scott, Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria homered for the Rays, who had lost five of six. Alex Torres (2-0) replaced Cobb and struck out four over 1 2-3 scoreless innings. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 19 opportunities.
Joyce hit a solo homer off Jeremy Guthrie (7-4) in the fifth that put the Rays up 4-2 and ended the Royals' 13-game stretch of limiting opponents to three runs or fewer.
"We'll see if we can't start another one tomorrow," Yost said of the streak.
Guthrie gave up five runs and eight hits over seven innings.
The Royals took a 2-1 lead in the second when Alex Gordon walked on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly. Salvador Perez cut the deficit to 5-3 on a solo homer in the eighth.
Perez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the first.
It was only the Royals' second loss in 11 games, but it certainly didn't register as much as the relief they felt knowing that Cobb had not been seriously injured.
"He seemed fine," said Royals pitcher James Shields, another former teammate who went over to see Cobb as he was being wheeled off the field. "He was talking, very comprehensible ... Everything's looking positive and from everything I've heard he has a laceration on his ear and a concussion. Hopefully it's just that."