ST. PETERSON, Fla. - Tim Beckham made a detour into the Rays’ clubhouse this afternoon, visiting with old friends and teammates before heading back over to the other side. He didn’t get lost, just a bit nostalgic.
Alex Cobb started for the Orioles and didn’t do as much socializing, but tonight’s game also represented a “domecoming” for Cobb, who spent his first seven major league seasons with Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately, Aubrey Huff couldn’t be lured out of retirement.
Beckham burned his old team by leading off the top of the fourth inning with a home run and later walked and scored, and Cobb registered his third consecutive quality start, but was denied the win after the Rays tied the game with two unearned runs in the eighth.
Miguel Castro had no connection to the Rays except for the walk-off home run he surrendered to Willy Adames with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 win at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles have lost four of their last five games and are 34-79 overall and 14-44 on the road.
Evan Phillips walked two batters after replacing Cobb to start the eighth, and Chris Davis committed a throwing error on a potential double play ball to load the bases with no outs. A wild pitch reduced the lead to 3-2 and Phillips issued his third walk to reload the bases and bring Paul Fry into the game.
Carlos Gomez grounded into a double play that scored the tying run. Fry struck out Ryan Kiermaier. Fry struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Castro replaced him.
With the count 3-1, Adames launched a 95 mph fastball deep into the seats in left field and the Orioles’ bullpen completed its collapse.
Making his second start with the Rays since the Chris Archer trade with the Pirates, Tyler Glasnow struck out nine batters over a season-high four innings and held the Orioles to a Caleb Joseph single in the third inning and Beckham’s home run in the fourth. He was throwing upper 90s heat, but also recorded strikeouts on an 83 mph curveball and 86 mph slider.
Trey Mancini greeted reliever Jaime Schultz with a solo shot into the right field corner that broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth and gave him three home runs in the last six games and four in the last nine. Beckham walked in the sixth, moved to third base on Adam Jones’ double and came home on Mark Trumbo’s single past a drawn-in infield for a 3-1 lead.
It wasn’t a ... wait for it ... Banner night for Schultz, who would have taken the loss after allowing two runs in two innings.
(Actor John Banner played Master Sergeant Schultz in the comedy “Hogan’s Heroes.” Please try to keep up.)
Cobb proved adept at damage control in the first inning. He surrendered three straight singles and threw a wild pitch before recording an out, with Jake Bauers giving Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead, but a popup, comebacker and strikeout got Cobb back in the dugout at 21 pitches.
It had the potential to be so much worse.
The Orioles have been outscored 89-53 in the first inning this season. They began tonight “winning” only two innings this season - 65-56 in the seventh and 42-36 in the ninth.
Cobb strung together six scoreless innings in a row after the first and would have won back-to-back starts for the first time this season. He allowed five hits, retired the last 10 batters and has registered quality starts in four in his last five outings.
Joseph threw out Bauers trying to steal second base to end the third inning. Bauers reached on a force out, with the Orioles again failing to turn a double play. Jonathan Villar fielded Bauers’ bouncer and raced to the bag instead of flipping the ball to Beckham, and he made a high throw to Davis.
Cobb issued back-to-back walks with two outs in the fourth, but Renato Núñez made a lunging stop to his left and threw out Adames from his knees. Davis stretched for the ball and kept his foot on the bag.
Jones went 1-for-4 tonight and almost collected an RBI in the eighth on a bouncer to shortstop, but Villar was ruled out at the plate after a review. Jones was making his usual start in center field, but he shagged fly balls in right during batting practice to fuel more speculation that Cedric Mullins will have his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk during the next homestand, which begins on Friday.
As I wrote earlier tonight, Mullins was scratched from Norfolk’s lineup due to an illness. He’s going to get an extended opportunity in the majors as part of the rebuild.
The Orioles’ bench included Danny Valencia, who was 15-for-37 (.405) with a double, triple, two home runs and seven RBIs against the Rays this season, and Joey Rickard, who was 10-for-23 (.435) with three doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs.
They didn’t play tonight. Maybe Valencia should have closed.
Manager Buck Showalter on Cobb settling down: “He made the adjustment. He was feeling for the command on his fastball early, and that’s probably the best split he’s had all year. Alex has been solid for a while. I know you all have been watching. He’s really pitching at a high level, like we knew he would once a lot of things got hopefully sorted out. But that’s about as good ... but he’s pitched some good games.
“He’s had some really good games for us very quietly. Because of the struggles of our team I think it kind of goes unnoticed.”
Showalter on trying to find where bullpen guys fit: “We’re going to do what’s best for the Orioles long-term. I thought Paul Fry had another really good outing tonight with just one day’s rest. We got a double play ball, potentially, that we don’t convert. Otherwise, I’d be talking about what a good outing that Evan had except for the command a little bit. That’s a young pitcher. He’ll have a lot of one step forward and two steps backs.”
Showalter on why Phillips wasn’t as good as in his Texas outing: “Pretty obvious. I don’t want to state the obvious. His command was a little bit more of a challenge. He’s close to getting (Mallex) Smith out to lead off the inning and gets behind the count with the changeup right out of the chute. But he got a big potential double play ball. There’s a fine line where you could be sitting there talking about ...
“I can’t tell you what things like that do for a young pitcher when you can get something like that and things settle in a little bit. But Paulie came in and did a great job. To come out of that the way he did and give us a chance to get back in there, that inning could have gotten away from us.”
Showalter on out at the plate being huge: “He’s out. But we’re sitting there where, if we don’t go and take a chance there with a fast runner, they’re going to walk Trum with (Adam) Kolarek out there, so we’re going to take a shot there. But we’ve got to push that run across.”
Cobb on making adjustment early: “I just think that I realized how aggressive they were being early on. They weren’t getting off the fastball those middle innings, either, which was fortunate because I was able to throw my off-speed and get ahead in some counts.
“I probably should have done some better planning that they were going to come out as aggressive as they did. But we had a game plan and before I knew it there was a run on the board, so I just kind of had to slow things down, tried to get some outs pitch by pitch.”
Cobb on starting to feel like himself: “Even when I wasn’t getting the results, I felt like I was progressing. It didn’t show it, but each time I was feeling much more comfortable. There’s times where I lose a little bit of it when I’m out there, but the quality of the pitches I do have are allowing me to compete out there, so I’m able to get by and it really doesn’t hurt me, as bad as it was early on.
“To answer your question, yes, every time out there I walk off the mound I feel like I’m that much closer to regaining the form that I’ve been looking for.”
Cobb on losing the middle-inning issues: “I think what that is, mostly, is the ability to have the third pitch right now, the changeup. Before, I was really a two-pitch pitcher, and you can’t get through the lineup three times without having good command of all your pitches, especially only two pitches. So, I think a combination of having command and three plus-pitches is why I’m able to see that lineup three times through and work a little deeper into games.”
Cobb on whether it’s a big deal to be back here: “I think I was eased into the situation pretty well. I was able to face the Rays at home in Baltimore a couple times. That kind of got the weirdness out of the way. And then I was able to come here and not pitch and feel comfortable in the visiting locker room, be in the visiting dugout, throw a bullpen in the visiting bullpen.
“All of those things kind of prepared me for today. It wasn’t that weird for me. Little bit weird being on the game mound because that was the first time I had been back on there in a while. But once the game got rolling it really wasn’t too odd for me.”
Beckham on still having something to play for: “Everyone in here has a lot to play for. We’re all competitors, come out and compete, one through nine. If we go to extra innings, we still compete. I’m not questioning anyone’s effort in here. We’re all competitors and we come out and want to win the ballgame.”
Beckham on Cobb: “He threw the ball well. I know Cobb, he’s going to go out and toe the mound, no matter the circumstances, and he’s going to come ready to play. That’s what he did tonight. He settled in, we got him the lead and he threw the ball well.
“He was using everything - curveball, changeup. Kept those guys off-balance. Tough loss for the boys tonight.”