Alex Cobb took his turn tonight, the senior member of a rotation that’s filling up with freshmen.
A bend in a popular September storyline.
If Cobb is going to impact the rebuild, it’s likely to be as a mentor for the rookies. Maybe as a trade chip over the winter or at next summer’s deadline. Or perhaps he lessens the pain of it with a standout 2021.
He has one season left on the four-year, $57 million deal he signed in March 2018. He has one start remaining after tonight.
He needs to take another deep breath and figure that it’s going to get better. That outings like tonight won’t be wasted or take a few strange dips.
Two-out damage in the first inning left Cobb visibly frustrated, a misplay in the outfield in the third also proved harmful, the Orioles couldn’t score after loading the bases with no outs and the Rays won again 2-1 at Camden Yards.
Cobb retired the first two batters in the first inning and the next three reached base to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Brandon Lowe singled, Mike Brosseau walked and Nate Lowe lined a run-scoring single into right field.
Manuel Margot bounced to the mound, where Cobb fielded the ball, flipped it from his glove to his bare hand and tossed it to first base in disgust. The body language was harsh.
Cobb was able to complete six innings for the second time this season, holding the Rays to two runs and four hits. A 10-pitch sixth left him at 91. He walked three batters and struck out five.
In the latest start against his former team, Cobb retired eight of the last nine batters and 11 of 13.
Tonight marked the eighth time that an Orioles pitcher has made it through six innings. Cobb produced his first quality start since Sept. 4, 2018 in Seattle and his first in Baltimore since Aug. 24 against the Yankees.
Pitching coach Doug Brocail has been tinkering with Cobb’s delivery, two veterans putting in the work on the side and hoping for better results. Brocail also has been kept busy by the youngsters who graduated from the alternate camp site - Keegan Akin followed by Dean Kremer followed by Bruce Zimmermann - and August waiver claim Jorge López.
“I love having the new blood up here, man,” Brocail said during today’s Zoom conference call with the media. “These kids have stepped in. If you look at the first two guys that came up, Kremer and Aik, they go about their work, they talk pitching, they pitch like they’ve been here and done it. Nothing bothers either of them. I don’t have to go out to the mound and say, ‘Hey, listen, your frustrations are leading to anxiety.’ I go out there, they know exactly what they want to do, they know how they want to attack. They tell me instead of me saying, ‘Hey, this guy ...’
“These guys have been great coming up here and I think they mix well because we have such a young bullpen that it’s just another one of the guys. This is a close pitching staff. We have Cobb, who’s been there and done it. John Means is basically one of your looked at veterans because of what he’s done. He made the All-Star team. I think Johnny’s only into his second year, so it’s one of those things that, this group, the three that has come up, has really brought new blood in and it’s great to see, and it’s awesome working with them. These guys know what they’re good at and they’re not afraid to take that to the hitter.”
Brocail isn’t afraid to envision the 2021 rotation as capable of turning a rebuilding club into a contender.
“God I hope so,” he said. “I don’t see why they can’t. The sky’s the limit, especially for the young guys.
“Jorge López came over from K.C. This is a guy that, we looked at him and knew immediately what we wanted to do. We wanted to take the noise out of his delivery and see what was going to happen, see if we could throw more strikes with the fastball, see if we could throw more strikes with the sinker and see if his off-speed played because of the direction. And he’s proved it. This guy has pretty good stuff. And then you have Cobber, you have Johnny Means, who after his last two starts has really gotten back to what he did that got him to the All-Star Game last year. Took off some velo, we nixed all the twisting and the turning, we have him direction, and the instant Johnny felt it, he knew that he was back. And I think that these five or six guys, if we can hold their (walks) down, we’ll have a chance to contend.
“We’ve already proven your Dean Kremers and your Akins can throw against the Yankees. Johnny Means we know can throw against the Yankees. And remember, we’re in the AL East, so we’re going to play a lot of games out of our division. This is a tough team that we’re playing here tonight. You look out there and see how well they move and the plays that they make and the speed that they have and what they can do with the sticks. We’re where they were a couple of years ago. And I think that if we can get these guys to buy in and believe what they’re good at and go do it a bunch, we’re going to be right there.”
The distance in 2020 remains pronounced.
The Rays lead the division and clinched a postseason berth with last night’s doubleheader sweep. The Orioles have lost nine of 11 and are a season-high eight games below .500.
The Rays couldn’t wait to rub salt in the wound.
Yoshi Tsutsugo led off the third with a triple on a ball that DJ Stewart tracked in right field but didn’t catch. Stewart was camped under it, reached up as he went into a slight crouch and the ball appeared to nick his glove and the padding on the top of the fence.
Brandon Lowe singled with one out for a 2-0 lead.
Cobb went from a nine-pitch second inning to a 24-pitch third. Ruiz booted Brosseau’s ground ball and threw late to second base, with the official scorer ruling fielder’s choice and no error, and Nate Lowe grounded into a double play.
Hays hit his second home run of the season, the other an inside-the-park job on Aug. 11 in Philadelphia. He drove a Glasnow changeup into the left field seats to reduce the lead to 2-1, but the next three batters struck out.
Glasnow lasted only five innings, throwing 95 pitches, but he allowed one run and struck out 10 batters.
Tanner Scott stranded a runner in the ninth after a leadoff walk and hasn’t been scored upon in 12 straight outings.
The Orioles have scored one run in six of their last nine games.
Note: The Orioles received 18-year-old outfielder Mishael Deson from the Rockies as the player to be named later in the Mychal Givens trade. He’s placed in the 60-man player pool but won’t report to the alternate camp site.
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny has been released from the alternate site.
Deson, a right-handed hitter, signed with the Rockies for $350,000 as an international free agent on July 7, 2018 out of La Romana, Dominican Republic. He appeared in 61 games for the Rockies’ Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliates in 2019, batting .252/.327/.336 (63-for-250) with 14 doubles, 20 RBIs, 38 runs and 23 stolen bases.
Deson played center field in 55 games and right field in two.
Manager Brandon Hyde on Cobb: “I thought a couple pitches were close that he didn’t get the calls on and he was frustrated a little bit, but he really bounced back. I wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to go, but to give us six innings, I was really pleased, with how short we were in the bullpen. He picked us up and gave us a chance to win.”
Hyde on Flores holding runner: “I’m not going to be critical of the third base coach. I think it’s one of the hardest job in the sport. There’s no outs, Chance Sisco is minus runner, Margot’s a good outfielder who throws well. Chance didn’t get the best read on it, and it’s tough to read a bobble after the fact. He was holding him, there was a bobble. To get Chance re-cranked up again to score with nobody out, that was the decision that was made. I’m not going to criticize Flo or any third base coach. I’ve been over there. I know how hard that is.”
Cobb on frustrating first inning: “Yeah, it’s been happening to me a lot where I’m able to get two quick outs and then a walk or let somebody on and let that run score. It’s so big to go out there in the first inning and just shut the door, set a tone, get your offense back out on the field, and it’s frustrating to start off that way.”
Cobb on his season: “It’s been up and down. I felt like I started off pretty well and then the middle part toward this later part I’ve been struggling to find ... We’ve been trying to make a lot of adjustments with the delivery. I’ve been working with (Darren) Holmes and Brocail a lot, especially this last week to make some adjustments and I think it’s going to pay off a lot in the long run. But it’s a challenge to do that in-season and feel comfortable out there. But it’s something you have to go through in game situations to work on stuff to see how hitters are responding to your stuff and see if you’re on the right path. There’s been some games where I’ve had to battle and try to get through it, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress. And coming off the year last year, where my health got me and I had to have two surgeries, I knew this year was going to have these types of moments where they’ve been up and down and trying to find your delivery and stuff like that. It’s difficult, but I think that the trajectory has been moving up and I’m pleased with that.”
Cobb on young starters: “It’s been fun to see what we have. I didn’t know much about the organizational depth that we had going into the season. I saw a couple of these guys in spring training and was able to see that they had electric arms and really good stuff, but you never know how it’s going to play. You never know how guys are going to react in the big leagues. We’ve seen just some tremendous outings from these guys and it’s really gotten some momentum going in this starting rotation. I think a lot of guys are feeding off it and there’s new energy, so it’s been fun to watch. Every one of them has been very professional and they’ve taken care of their business. They get after it in the weight room. They were able to get themselves to this point and what they’ve been doing has worked. So you sit by and you’re there for them if they need to ask any questions.”
Hays on how he’s hitting: “Tonight I felt just the most comfortable at the plate. I think it’s just continuing to get consistent at-bats is a big part of it for me. Basically I just went through a week-long spring training and I’m still working out those kinks that you usually have time to work on before the season starts. So I feel like I’m almost to that place now and I feel really good offensively. I need to continue to prove myself. I’m a young player, I don’t have a lot of experience, so every single at-bat and every single inning and every single game I get to play is an opportunity to continue to show what I can do.”
Hays on streaky offense: “Hitting is contagious. We all know that. I think the biggest part of it is being able to come up with that big hit. Tonight we were knocking on the door, bases loaded with no outs. Usually when things are going really, really well and you’re scoring a bunch of runs, that’s an inning where something crazy happens. A ball gets down the line or somebody hits a ball in the gap and it’s kind of off to the races from there, but I’ve just got to credit Glasnow tonight. He was able to make some really good pitches in that situation and get himself out of it. But I think some of these games we’re just one swing away or one pitch away from opening the flood gates, like we do in those games when we do score a lot of runs.”