There hadn’t been much luck involved in Alex Cobb’s resurgent first month of the season. He was, simply, pitching as well as he ever had in an Orioles uniform.
Monday night’s 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays doesn’t change much, but he’ll have plenty more to lament when looking back at what could have been this time around.
Cobb retired the first six batters he faced on 12 pitches before the third inning brought an onslaught that turned things around on him just as quickly.
“A couple close plays didn’t go our way, but some nice plays defensively, and then just a bad pitch and it’s a big inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought Alex threw the ball well. We played good defense. It just wasn’t one of those good nights.”
A pair of hard-hit infield singles that shortstop Andrew Velazquez got to up the middle but couldn’t turn into outs put two runners on. The first was indisputable; on the second, Velazquez was ranging far to his left and couldn’t get the ball out of his glove for a shovel to second base, forcing a late throw to first. Both advanced when Cobb briefly bobbled a comebacker and had to go to first with it instead of getting the lead runner.
Cobb tried to get a force play at home on a swinging bunt two pitches later, but his attempt was just late. Two pitches after that, he hung a split-finger fastball to Randal Grichuk that was cracked for a three-run home run to center field.
All that damage came in just 11 pitches.
“We call it getting bleeded to death: little cuts here and there, balls fall in and then there’s a blast and before you know it, your line looks terrible and you’re falling behind,” Cobb said. “As a pitcher, you can feel it while it’s happening.”
The veteran right-hander quickly allowed two more hits but stranded them in the third, setting off a streak of 13 straight hitters retired before a two-out walk in the seventh inning tested his luck again. Renato Núñez could only knock down a stinger down the first-base line by Cavan Biggio before Grichuk hit a soft looper to short right field to chased Cobb from the game.
His 6⅔ innings were the most the Orioles (12-10) have gotten from a starter all season, though that will be little consolation. His ERA climbed from 2.75 to 3.76, though he said it was the best he’s felt start to finish all season.
“They’re a super aggressive team,” Cobb said. “I knew that going in. You’re going to have all of your pitches working off-speed, you’re going to have to establish fastballs in. But they got some pitches. They hit some balls hard. There was a lot of cheap hits, but some really well-hit balls as well.”
Grind-it-out goes groundout
The Orioles’ offense has boasted a grinder mentality all season, but mostly trafficked in grounders on a miserable offensive night against Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu.
They’d managed little until the fourth inning when Anthony Santander, who had two of their five hits, doubled in the fourth inning and came around to score on a single by Pedro Severino.
Rio Ruiz popped out to shortstop to end the second inning, but otherwise, every out the Orioles made was on the ground until Ruiz lined out to the warning track to lead off the eighth inning. Cedric Mullins walked and scored on a single by Núñez with two outs in the ninth.
“He was creating a lot of weak contact pull-side,” Mullins said of Ryu. “It just was tough for us to make the adjustment today.”
Right-hander Dillon Tate was hit on the elbow by a line drive early in intrasquad games and had been rehabilitating at the alternate site in Bowie since. The Orioles optioned right-hander Evan Phillips before Monday’s game to activate Tate from the injured list, and he pitched 2⅓ innings in relief of Cobb.
Tate retired the first six batters he faced before a two-out walk and then a home run by Biggio in the ninth inning.
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