Orioles 1, Rays 5: Alex Cobb buries most of O's remaining playoff hopes

Mike Ehrmann

Are the lights out on the Orioles playoff chances after a 5-1 loss on Saturday? Alex Cobb struck out twelve as the Rays dominated the O's from start to finish.

The Orioles played eighteen innings on Friday night. They came out looking like it on Saturday afternoon, turning in a lifeless effort against Alex Cobb and the Rays. Cobb nearly pitched a complete game shutout against the O's. He came up just short of that, but he still did plenty enough to get an easy win, crushing most of what was left of the Orioles playoff hopes. Saturday's 5-1 loss all but eliminates them, as now they would have to win out (they won't) and get lucky with several other teams losing many games.

In their last 20 innings, the Orioles have now scored a whopping one run. The one run they did score today was the result of a gift, with David DeJesus misplaying a Chris Davis fly ball into what was scored a triple. That scoring decision is the type of thing that exposes errors for the joke that they are, because if what DeJesus did, falling down in an attempt to catch a ball he lost in the roof, is not an error, there is no such thing as an error. This came in the ninth inning, long after there were any doubts about the outcome of the game.

Adam Jones singled in Davis to put the Orioles on the board, but it almost doesn't matter because of how much of a gift it was. The triple was the 93rd extra-base hit of the year for Davis, breaking the Orioles record for extra-base hits in a season set by Brady Anderson.

The loss sends them to three games back in the wild card chase, with Cleveland still to play tonight. The Yankees won their afternoon game, putting another team between the Orioles and a playoff spot. For a month or more, the refrain has been that the Orioles would have to get hot. The reality seems to be that this team is just not capable of that kind of run and they never will be.

Had they been able to muster any kind of offense whatsoever, they might have had a shot in this game. Miguel Gonzalez turned in a game that, while not his greatest, would have been good enough on most days. He only allowed two hits in six innings, with his biggest problem being that he allowed five walks. Two of those walks came around to score when Desmond Jennings hit a home run in the fifth inning, the only runs Gonzalez allowed in the game.

Francisco Rodriguez came on for the seventh inning and did what he does best: put the game out of reach for the Orioles. He worked the seventh inning, giving up two runs on four hits, including triples by Jennings and Yunel Escobar. How do you allow two triples in the same inning? Series nemesis Ben Zobrist drove in Escobar, giving the Rays a 5-0 lead at that point in the game.

While all of this was going on, Cobb was completely destroying the Orioles. He allowed five hits and only one run - the result of the DeJesus should-be-error - as he pitched 8.1 innings. Cobb struck out twelve Orioles and only walked two. The two walks came in the first inning, one to Manny Machado and one to Jones.

You might hope good things would come from those two aggressive hitters working walks in the same inning, but Nick Markakis followed Jones to the plate with two outs and that was that.

Being destroyed by Cobb is hardly the most frustrating loss that the Orioles will suffer this season. Cobb has turned in a fantastic season in 21 starts. Run into a good pitcher who's having a great day and you will lose most of the time. The problem for the O's is not so much this game, but the fact that they wasted so many other winnable games along the way.

The ninth inning was the only one in the game where the Orioles had multiple base hits. They went three-up, three-down in five of their nine trips to the plate. They looked like the 3:30am Friday morning arrival in St. Petersburg combined with the marathon game Friday night was just too much for them. Perhaps at the end of a long season, where they are the only team to have five players who have played 150+ games, they are simply wearing down.

Whatever it is, there are only eight games left, and it's no sure thing the Orioles would make the playoffs even if they won them all. That is just about their only remaining hope.

Can they keep even those dim hopes alive for one more day? Sunday afternoon's contest will tell all. Scott Feldman takes the mound in the O's last-ditch effort to cling to relevance, with the struggling Jeremy Hellickson, who briefly appeared in Friday night's game, scheduled to start for the Rays in the 1:40 game.

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