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Orioles can’t solve Gerrit Cole; Alex Cobb struggles in 6-0 loss to Yankees

When Alex Cobb last stood on a major league mound 12 days ago, the Orioles were 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, then lost that night for their 10th defeat in 12 games as the early-season hopes of a surprise playoff berth faded away.

By the time Cobb came off the injured list and rejoined the team Friday to start the first game of Baltimore’s doubleheader with the New York Yankees, the Orioles trailed their American League East foe by only 1 1/2 games for the AL’s final playoff spot. But three of New York’s first eight batters homered off Cobb, providing Gerrit Cole with more than enough offense to handle all seven innings as the Orioles opened the pivotal series with a 6-0 defeat.

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Cobb spent most of the past two weeks on the IL because of a cold. He said he never tested positive for COVID-19, but with any related symptoms prompting concerns of the coronavirus, he was forced to stay away from the team.

“I’m kind of still battling it," Cobb said. "With the way we’re operating this year, if you have any type of symptoms, you have to proceed like you have COVID and try to stay away from everybody. Even if it’s not COVID, even the common cold. If I pass it on to the rest of my team, they’ll have to sit out and wait and get cleared and make sure that they don’t have it. You just have to be away. It’s unfortunate.”

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Cobb’s preparation for Friday’s outing was affected, unable to do his typical between-start work and even playing catch at a park one day. He entered Friday with a 2.92 career ERA against New York, the lowest among active pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings against the Yankees.

He was seemingly primed to continue that success Friday against a sputtering Yankees team that had lost seven of its past nine games, including three of four to the Orioles (20-23) last week. But after falling behind 0-2, DJ LeMaheiu sent an inside split-change out to left for his fourth leadoff home run of the season.

Luke Voit followed with a single before Brett Gardner, New York’s struggling No. 3 hitter, homered to right-center field on a Cobb fastball. It was the Yankees' first home run with a runner on base in September.

Cobb had allowed multiple home runs in all three of his starts in a 2019 campaign shortened by a season-ending hip surgery, but he had yet to be tagged more than once through his first seven outings in 2020.

But the Yankees finished with three home runs against him when Kyle Higashioka hit another two-run shot in the second. Higashioka, New York’s lightly used backup catcher, has hit three of his career seven home runs against Baltimore.

“I don’t think they were necessarily great pitches, but definitely, the swings that were put on them, I didn’t think that they were home runs," Cobb said. "I don’t know if the wind was blowing out to left a little bit or not, but I thought LeMahieu’s was definitely just a lazy fly ball, maybe get to the warning track the deepest. But they just keep going. They weren’t necessarily great pitches. I didn’t think the swings were home run-worthy.”

Cobb recovered to finish four innings without further damage, getting his five outs on strikeouts over his final two frames. The Yankees added a run off Thomas Eshelman in the sixth.

Cole’s revenge

In his two previous starts against the Orioles, Cole showed every reason the Yankees made him the highest-paid pitcher on the planet. But unlike last week, Baltimore was unable to break through against him.

After Cole took a shutout into the sixth before the Orioles struck for five runs off him in the frame at Camden Yards, he finished the job in his home stadium. Cole struck out nine, getting Baltimore’s batters to swing and miss 27 times, the most against any pitcher this season. He held the Orioles hitless until Hanser Alberto’s two-out single in the fifth.

“I thought all four pitches were plus today,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said, “and that presented a lot of problems.”

The only other Orioles to reach first base safely against Cole were Ryan Mountcastle, who reached on an error to lead off the second and drew a walk with two outs in the fourth, and Renato Núñez, who singled on Cole’s 109th pitch with two outs in the seventh.

In the first season of a nine-year deal with New York, Cole has a 1.83 ERA in three starts against the Orioles.

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“What Gerrit did, it’s who the Yankees signed,” Cobb said. “You’re lucky to get a couple hits. You just have to hope he’s off a little bit.”

Remembering 9/11

In recognition of first responders on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Yankees played wearing caps honoring the New York City police and fire departments.

Before the game, Hyde spoke on the significance of being in New York on the anniversary.

“I don’t think any of us will forget where we were on that morning,” Hyde said. “We were talking about that, a lot of us, on the bus here, where we were that day, and being in New York today is extra special and watching the news this morning. I visited the 9/11 site last year when we were here in New York, took my family there just because I wanted them to see that and experience it. Being here today is extra special, and it’s a day that we’ll never forget.”

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