PHILADELPHIA — On the back of another tough loss in a season full of them Tuesday in Philadelphia, where the rallying cry for rebuilding the 76ers for years was to “Trust the Process,” the Orioles and starter Alex Cobb found themselves singing a tune the locals are quite familiar with.
The ever-thoughtful Cobb pitched undeniably well in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies, allowing just four hits but seeing his only two unintentional walks score in 6 2/3 innings. It was his seventh quality start, and he pulled his ERA down to 6.53.
But in a season in which he’s searched and searched for the consistency that defined his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, Cobb says the focus now becomes figuring out what made today so for the rest of this year and his four years under contract with the Orioles.
“It’s to the point of the year with where we are in the standings, individual production that we’ve had, that we haven’t lived up to where we want to be, to really take a step back and not be results-oriented,” Cobb said.
“I don’t want to say take it almost spring training-like, but we have to do whatever it takes for each and every one of us to get better going forward. When you get hung up on results, I think that you let that cloud the process that’s going on to make yourself get better. I don’t want it to be framed to any fans or front office, coaching staff, that we’re not going out there trying to win ballgames. We absolutely are, every single night.
“But we also need to not be so result-oriented and take the small progressions that we’re making and get better. If we want to compete later on this year, next year, we need to get better each and every one of us — individually.”
Cobb has spoken often after starts this year about trying to find that repeatable, good feeling that pitchers struggle to find words for, which he described Tuesday as one that “really frees you up and allows you to be as aggressive as you want.”
“I’ve been searching for that pretty relentlessly for the last three months — and even going back to parts of last year,” Cobb said. “Tonight was a night that I felt like I got to that point in my delivery a good amount of times. Now, the next step is to capture that and be able to repeat it 100 times a night — over 100 times a night. This is the first step before I can get to that. I was happy with a lot of the things that I did tonight.”
He’s not alone in that. Manager Buck Showalter said Cobb “had his best changeup of the year.”
“You knew coming into the game with as many left-handed hitters as they were going to run against him, that they were going to need that,” Showalter said. “It’s a tough day to pitch. It’s raining, sweating, you’re trying to grip the baseball. I was impressed with Alex.”
Mark Trumbo, who had two of the Orioles’ seven hits, including a home run in the second inning, said he agreed with both Cobb’s positivity, despite the results, and his impression of how Cobb pitched.
“You have to [look at the positive,]” he said. “I try to take something positive home every night. Sometimes, it can be kind of hard to find something. But in his case today, he threw the ball really well. It looked like he commanded all three pitches. They scored a couple runs there, but he took us deep into the game, and we had a chance to win.”
Trumbo’s message as the season has gotten away from the Orioles has been that there are chances for players of all stripes — both young and seasoned — to make an impression and solidify themselves in a positive direction the rest of the way.
Cobb has taken steps towards that without being able to extend those runs as far as he’d like this year, but he knows the way to helping the team win long-term is to harness what he had for large stretches on a night the rest of the team didn’t.
“It stinks that we went away with a loss where I gave up a few runs that I didn’t want to, but tonight I need to think about where I got to,” Cobb said. “That’s going to get me to become more successful later on this year and into next year.”