Baltimore Orioles

Alex Cobb’s splitter shines, but Marlins shut out Orioles, 1-0, in first game of seven-inning doubleheader

Much like Alex Cobb’s splitter dived beneath the Miami Marlins’ bats Wednesday evening, the Orioles’ hot start to the abbreviated 2020 season made its way into the dirt.

Cobb dazzled in his third start of the campaign, but Baltimore’s lineup was again outmatched by a pitcher who hadn’t faced a major league opponent in nearly two weeks. After Pablo López worked the first five innings of a shutout Tuesday night, Elieser Hernández nearly equaled him in the Marlins’ 1-0 victory over the Orioles, coming in the first game of a doubleheader in which both games were scheduled for seven innings.


Before the consecutive scoreless performances, a first for the Orioles since September 2017, Baltimore had scored at least five runs in four straight games and was coming off a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, a playoff team in 2019.

“We were playing really good baseball right before this last off-day,” Cobb said. “I don’t know what happened. We ran into some good pitching these last two games, but we’ve got to find a way to come together as a team and get these two victories.


“It’d be tough to lose this series.”

Brian Anderson’s opposite-field home run on the second pitch of Cobb’s fourth inning was the only damage against the veteran right-hander, but with the Orioles (5-5) unable to get a hit off Hernández until the fifth, it proved to be the difference.

Like López, Hernández’s start against Baltimore was his regular-season debut and his first outing since a July 22 exhibition against the Atlanta Braves. He didn’t pitch in the Marlins’ first series against the Philadelphia Phillies, during which a handful of Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. As the case count grew to more than half of Miami’s roster, the Marlins experienced a week-long delay, quarantining in a Philadelphia hotel.

The healthy Marlins and a large swath of newcomers have returned with consecutive victories over the Orioles, shutting out Baltimore through the series’ first 16 innings.

“We just didn’t square many balls up,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I don’t know if we have guys pressing or what it is. But it was not a very good offensive performance by us in this first game.”

Gotta split

Cobb’s success has often been tied to his splitter. That pitch perhaps hasn’t been better for him in recent years than it was Wednesday.

Cobb’s splitter generated 13 swinging strikes, three more than his previous high since 2015, when Statcast was introduced. All seven of his strikeouts came on the splitter as he matched the highest single-game punchout total of his Orioles tenure. Asked if the pitch lined up with how it was during his peak years with the Rays, Cobb said, “It’s there.”

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“The split was real good,” Hyde said. “The split-change, guys were swinging over the top of it.”


After making three injury-hampered starts in 2019 and posting a 10.95 ERA in those outings, Cobb has a 2.51 ERA in his first three starts of 2020. Still, he sees areas for improvement, wanting to be more aggressive in the strike zone to get quicker outs and, as a result, pitch deeper into games.

“I love the mindset of going into a seven-inning game,” Cobb said. “As the starting pitcher, you can see the finish line, and you know you have a real quality chance to get to it.”

Fifth-inning stretch

With Wednesday’s doubleheader featuring seven-inning games, the traditional seventh-inning stretch moved up two innings, meaning John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” played to an empty Camden Yards in the middle of the fifth frame.

It seemed to get the Orioles going. With one out, Chance Sisco shot a double down the left-field line for their first hit. Pedro Severino followed with a pinch-hit single, prompting Miami manager Don Mattingly to replace Hernández with Nick Vincent. On Vincent’s first pitch, Hanser Alberto grounded into a double play, ending their best offensive threat of the night’s first game.

Given that it was effectively the late innings, Hyde tried to play aggressively in the frame, pinch-running for Sisco once he reached third in addition to calling on Severino.

“I was playing it like it’s the seventh,” Hyde said.