Cobb dazzles in 7-2 win, Means provides positive news (updated)

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that he wanted to flush last night’s loss.

His team almost clogged the bases early this afternoon.

Alex Cobb, making his first start since April 26, 2019, was handed a three-run lead before he stepped on the mound and carried a shutout into the sixth in a 7-2 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Cobb had pinpoint control of his fastball while allowing one run and four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out Rafael Devers with a 3-2 splitter to open the sixth and Mitch Moreland lined a home run into the right field seats to bring Hyde out of the dugout.

Paul Fry entered the game after Cobb threw 78 pitches.

The Orioles went to work quickly on Martín Pérez in the top of the first inning. Austin Hays had a leadoff single and moved to third on Hanser Alberto’s double, and they scored with two outs on Renato Núñez’s double off the Green Monster. A wild pitch advanced Núnez to third and he scored on Devers’ fielding error.

Hays didn’t immediately tag on Anthony Santander’s liner to right field, but Núñez came up with the big hit.

Alberto looks like he’s going to keep wearing out lefties. He produced an RBI single in the second after Pat Valaika singled and Cedric Mullins walked, and José Iglesias kept swinging a hot bat with a single that increased the lead to 5-0.

The Red Sox were bailed out by Alberto’s baserunning mistake, with a popup turning into a double play, but Pérez already had allowed seven of 12 batters to reach. Alberto would get his third hit off a lefty in the top of the ninth.

Pérez retired 10 of his last 11 but was gone after the fifth - much later than expected after such a poor beginning.

Cobb-Throws-Black-Fenway-Sidebar.jpgCobb stranded two runners in the fourth, with Moreland striking out and reaching on Pedro Severino’s passed ball. He would have stayed beyond the Moreland home run in the sixth under normal circumstances.

In his last two starts in 2019, Cobb surrendered a combined 13 earned runs (14 total) and 19 hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Twins. Pérez was the opposing pitcher and earned both wins.

Three straight two-out hits off Fry today reduced the lead to 5-2 in the sixth as Cobb watched from the dugout. Santander was charged with a throwing error during the sequence and Alberto couldn’t turn Kevin Plawecki’s ground ball into the final out. Miguel Castro struck out pinch-hitter Xander Bogaerts to restore order, his fastball reaching 99 mph and the last pitch a nasty slider.

The Orioles got the runs back in the seventh on Santander’s double that scored Hays and Iglesias, who each had two hits today. The Orioles had none after the second until the rally.

Mychal Givens got the last four outs.

The Orioles made it through their second game healthy and are counting on left-hander John Means to come off the injured list for Thursday night’s start against the Marlins at Camden Yards. They envision a nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

Means was supposed to handle the opening day assignment, but he’s been working out at the alternate camp site in Bowie and escaping the dead-arm phase.

“My arm feels great right now, actually. It feels really good and it has for the past five, six days or so,” he said during today’s Zoom call.

“It’s disappointing. I just had a little tweak there in my last outing and just for precautionary reasons we kind of slow-played this. There’s no reason to get hurt trying to make that opening day start. It’s disappointing, obviously. It would have been a dream come true to pitch opening day at Fenway Park. To not do that is disappointing but I’m excited to get back out there against Miami.”

The condition of Means’ arm is the same as last summer when he made a stop on the injured list and struggled in the second half until reaching September.

“It was actually very similar to what I had,” he said. “I think it was the second time on the IL. It’s so minor, it’s nothing structural, it was my biceps for the most part, just having some knots in it. The quick start probably had something to do with it. It’s hard to come back and start throwing four, five, six innings, which a lot of did and a lot of guys are having success with. It’s just going to happen. I was just hoping it didn’t happen to me.

“It was the same thing as last year, the same similar thing, and we’re learning how to just kick it out of there. But thankfully it’s not anything too serious at all.”

Means threw a bullpen session a few days ago and is scheduled for a couple innings of live batting practice Sunday at Prince George’s Stadium.

“Just trying to make sure nothing’s there,” he said.

The Orioles are counting on their pitchers’ complete honesty when it pertains to health. Fight the temptation to hide any discomfort and try to push through it.

“They could tell in my last outing there were just a couple instances between innings where it was just taking longer than it should have to warm up,” Means said. “Being honest with them isn’t hard, but obviously the competitive nature and how competitive I am, I wanted to pitch opening day. That was my goal, that was my dream, and it didn’t happen this year. So hoping I can get out there and pitch well.

“I think my problem was I was feeling really, really good coming in and I got a little froggy there for a while. I was throwing hard, I was throwing everything hard and I ended up tweaking something. It was probably my fault, but when I feel good, I just want to roll, I want to get on the track and go, and I need to learn how to use the brakes a little bit.

Means said he won’t need to manage his arm any differently.

“I should be good to go for the rest of the year. I really don’t think this is ever going to come up again,” he said.

The Zoom session was held in the trainers’ room at Bowie, where Means seems to be thriving inside a facility that’s undergone some significant changes in order to be used as a secondary camp.

“This place is completely different from when I was here a couple years ago,” he said. “They have a really nice weight room up on the concourse that they put together that actually is doing really well and has everything you need. The training room has some new toys in it.

“They’ve really done a great job here with having all the things that I need, that all the guys need to stay going and stay ready.”

Means is joined by relievers Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate. Harvey was supposed to handle high-leverage, late-inning situations, but he won’t be ready to leave the IL next week.

“He’s doing great,” Means said. “He feels really good. He’s just working out some kinks. He’s kind of dealing with the same thing as me, just some inflammation. His spirits are up. He’s in here getting his work in just like everybody else and he should be good to go shortly.”

Hyde on Cobb: “I don’t think actually he had his best stuff. I liked the life to his fastball, I thought he threw some pretty good curveballs, I don’t think that was his best split. He had a little bit better one in his last simulated start that we had. But competitor, knows how to pitch and really did a great job. Stretched him a little bit. He had only thrown up to the fifth inning, got up five times.”

Hyde on Hays, Alberto and Iglesias at top of order: “No secret, I like guys who make contact, I like guys who make hard contact. And all three of those guys are going to give you a competitive at-bat. They’re in there for the fight. I think those three guys, I just like the at-bats. They’re always going to be competitive. And I want to get those types of competitive at-bats up there as much as possible, especially against left-handed pitching.”

Hyde on Castro: “Miguel Castro probably got the biggest out of the game. The middle part where we really struggled last year, that sixth and seventh inning to keep a lead or keep a game close. For him to punch out Bogaerts in that situation, that was the key to the game.”

Cobb on needing to prove something to himself as well as team: “It’s a very small step in that journey, but you have to start somewhere and really happy we were able to do that today. There’s just been a lot of work put into this journey and the post-surgery and rehab by a lot of people and I’m really thankful to everybody who’s helped me along the way and it’s really nice to be able see results immediately once the regular season started.”

Cobb on fastball command: “In the bullpen, if you’ve been following the game, you’ve heard this a million times my stuff was great, it really was sharp. And then I got out in the game and it really vanished with the off-speed stuff. So I had to rely heavily on the fastball command. Fortunately, I had some late life and movement to it, so I was able to disguise it and make it look like a ball and have it come back over the plate, mostly to lefties.”

Cobb on first win since Sept. 4, 2018: “There’s no feeling like sitting at the entrance and giving every single one of your teammates a high-five or a fist pound and thanking them for working behind you and them saying how nice it was to play behind you. I didn’t forget it, it’s one of my favorite feelings in the game and it’s something I’ve wanted to have for a long time. I know it’s been over a year since it happened, but I never forgot that feeling. Love it. It’s my favorite.”

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