Orioles manager Buck Showalter noticed tonight how Alex Cobb was checking a finger on his right hand with two outs in the top of the second inning and knew instantly that pitching plans would have to be adjusted. That what appeared to be the makings of another solid start for Cobb would deteriorate into a bullpen game.
Cobb had to be replaced in the third inning because the blister on his middle finger broke open again, and the Athletics scored three runs off Mike Wright Jr. and held on for a 3-2 win over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 9,141 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles are 41-103 overall and 24-45 at home. Four more losses and they’ll tie the club record set in 1988.
“I knew that it may have opened up again,” Showalter said. “He came in. It opened up pretty good. I don’t know if the humidity. But it’s been a challenge for him and the trainers for a good portion of the year, but he’s been able to ...
“With the six days off, we thought ... It’s kind of like a hamstring pull or something. Any type of injury that you’re going out and testing it, throwing and what have you, even though you put protective stuff on it, he’s such a touch and feel guy, especially with the split. He was really frustrated because it. Looked like he was going to have another good outing.”
Cobb explained again that it’s more of a cut than a blister. Whatever the correct term, it’s been a hassle.
“Last batter of the second inning, it was really going to make me alter the way I throw the ball. That can lead to other issues, so you just realize that there’s no reason to push it at that point,” he said.
“It’s frustrating because I think we did everything we could to give me the opportunity to go out and pitch today. Extra couple days with the off days and paid real good attention to it all week.”
Wright replaced Cobb and allowed three runs in the third, his 30 pitches matching Cobb’s total over the first two innings. Matt Chapman had an RBI double and Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty delivered run-scoring singles. Wright also walked two batters.
The A’s were quieted after the third. Wright retired the side in order in the next two innings. Yefry Ramírez stranded a runner in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh on three balls hit to Jonathan Villar - grounder, line drive and popup.
“I thought Yefry was really good, and Tanner, another good step,” Showalter said. “Got Mychal out there. Michael Wright had two good innings after that first one, struggled a little bit. But we had a solo home run and Villar drove in a couple runs and that was about it offensively.”
Mike Fiers shut out the Orioles through five innings, but Villar launched a changeup into the center field seats in the sixth to reduce the lead to 3-1. The ball traveled 421 feet, according to Statcast.
Seven of Villar’s 13 home runs this season have come with the Orioles.
Breyvic Valera led off the eighth with a single off Lou Trivino, stole second base with two outs and scored on Villar’s single into left field.
“He kind of fits what we are trying to do here right now,” Showalter said. “He’s up to .270. He’s not a guy they’re going to too strongly turn around left and right too much. He’s shown some flexibility. Actually, he’s a pretty good outfielder, too.
“This guy likes to play baseball. He enjoys the competition regardless of where we are. I don’t think he’s one of those guys you worry about folding in the spring and the fall. This is what you’re going to get. There’s going to be some certain aggressive recklessness. We need some of that, pushing the envelope. Having the other team worrying about you.”
Center fielder Ramón Laureano made a diving catch to rob Trey Mancini and perhaps save the tying run from scoring, since Villar was running on the pitch.
“There are some really impressive center fielders in our league right now,” Showalter said. “I’d like to think our guy would have caught it. He’s been a real catalyst for them for a while. Very quietly because people don’t know because they play on the West Coast. He’s hitting almost .300 and doing everything for them. Hitting for some power.
“We were fortunate to keep him from hurting us too much offensively tonight.”
Fiers came out of the game after the sixth. He’s registered a 2.72 ERA in seven starts since the A’s acquired him from the Tigers.
Cobb’s roll was halted due to his finger instead of the A’s bats.
“I thought he was on his way to another good outing tonight and he was crisp, carrying a good fastball,” Showalter said. “He was really frustrated up the runway, regardless of what kind of stuff he might have been carrying and what he could have done.
“Alex really dug out of a hole here since July and it’s been fun to watch him get a return for how much he cares. So hopefully during this turn here, we’ll deal with it and things won’t happen like that next time, and maybe it will be a little cooler and not so much humidity. We can’t change the weather if that’s what’s it, but it’s just frustrating.”
The date of Cobb’s next start is pending. The Orioles could push him back again, but that’s been attempted and didn’t bring the desired result tonight.
“We’ve tried, maybe not sometimes publicly where an extra day here, an extra day there, but it’s probably something that’s not going to resolve itself,” Showalter said. “You know, they’re such sticklers about what you can put on that and what you can’t and staying within the rules. We gave him almost a week off, really six days off, I believe it was, and we’ll look at it again and see how it manages. Sometimes we’re able to keep it from doing it.
“Quite frankly, a lot of it has to do with the weather and some of it has to do with, he caught a seam on, I don’t know if it was a breaking ball or a split he thought that just popped it and tore it. He can bleed and he’s fine. It’s just what you may end up causing.
“Do I think he’ll pitch again? Yes. But it could be in five days. Who knows? Brian (Ebel) and his group and Alex have done a great job of managing it for probably two-thirds of the year, so we’ll see.”
Wright took a Laureano comebacker off the back of his leg before the A’s scored their three runs. Could it have affected him? It’s a reasonable theory, at least worth floating.
“Maybe that first inning, but it didn’t affect him that next two,” Showalter said. “It’s one of those things where you’re walking out to the mound and kind of going, ‘I really want to stay away from (Cody) Carroll tonight. He had a touch-and-feel today to kind of get into the flow a little bit. He’ll probably be able to pitch tomorrow.
“They are so right-handed. With so many pitchers we added, we’re looking to start some guys Friday or Saturday. That’s why I took Yefry out. I didn’t want him pitching any more than two innings in case he is an option to start. I want him to have three full days and not take him to 40 or 50 pitches in three innings. Yefry was good.
“Did it affect (Wright)? Maybe. You have so much adrenaline going on out there. I think Mike is the only one who can answer that.”
Rookie left-hander Josh Rogers is leaving the rotation, but he could be used again later this month in a relief role.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to shut him down, but he’s not going to figure into the starting plans for the time being,” Showalter said. “He’s kind of right at where we like him to be. We look at the 2016 starts and innings, which makes where he’s at right now real comfortable. But if you look at last year when he only threw 90-something and had some of the elbow issues, I think we’ve taken it close to where we want to take him.
“Don’t hold me to it. I expect to see him pitch again, but probably not as a starter. ... I’d really like to see him pitch an inning or two out of the ‘pen, too, to get a feel for what that looks like. But he’s aware of everything.”