Alex Cobb is not the solution to what ails the Orioles, at least not right away. The best thing that can be said about the outcome of his much-anticipated debut is that it was not a Mike Wright-level disaster where he could not get out of the first inning. The rest of the Saturday afternoon game against the Red Sox was a complete mess, too, and so the O’s lost, 10-3
After having watched the past two seasons of horrible Orioles starting pitching, there is a certain pattern that emerges. Cobb took up the mantle of that tradition from the very beginning of his first outing. Three batters into his first outing, not only had he failed to record an out, the Orioles were losing, 3-0, with Cobb giving up a walk and a double before allowing a Hanley Ramirez home run over the Green Monster.
It took only two pitches into Cobb’s debut before the MASN broadcasters, Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, were wondering just how ready he was to be pitching after signing in the final days of spring training.
With how things turned out, it’s fair to wonder. If Cobb is still shaking off a little rust, that would explain today’s outing. It’s still unfortunate for the O’s that this shakedown cruise took place against a red-hot Red Sox offense. Not much else to do except chalk this mess up in the loss column and hope there’s a little bit less rust in his next outing, and the one after that, and so on.
The Orioles are increasingly relying on hope that things will turn around as this season goes along. The loss on Saturday afternoon drops them to a 5-10 record overall, and while it’s true that the Orioles have limped to this record against a number of 2017 playoff teams, they are going to need to beat these good teams eventually if they want to continue pretending that they are a contender.
Were the first inning the only bad one for Cobb, there would be a much less gloomy outlook in this recap and in Birdland in general. Cobb never really settled in, unless you want to count the scoreless second inning as settling in. He allowed a solo home run to J.D. Martinez in the third inning, with another flurry of offense plating four runs - three earned - in the fourth inning.
Cobb was not able to complete the fourth inning. It took him 79 pitches to go 3.2 innings, and he surrendered eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and one walk. Cobb faced 21 batters on Saturday afternoon and he did not strike out a single one. Yuck.
It’s the second straight short Orioles start where the starter got zero strikeouts, following on the heels of Chris Tillman’s mess from Friday night. Cobb should be capable of better eventually, hopefully very soon. This is not so sure of a thing to say about Tillman.
With the Orioles offense turning in another 2018 O’s offense kind of performance, the game got out of hand and stayed that way. If this came against one of the proven Red Sox pitchers, that would be one thing - still disappointing, but perhaps understandable. It was not. The Boston starter was Hector Velazquez, a 29-year-old pitching in just his 12th MLB game, and fifth start.
The Orioles were down 8-0 before they cracked the goose egg on the scoreboard. A Pedro Alvarez home run, his second of the year, plated two runs in the fifth inning. There is no good reason to struggle so much against Velazquez, or against most combinations of pitchers.
The Orioles are just a wreck right now and it’s about more than the occasional bad start. There is a whole lot of stink to go around with the lineup. Even if Cobb had pitched well, it is always likely that scoring three runs is going to be enough to win a game.
The 1-2 batters in the lineup, Trey Mancini and Alvarez, collected two hits apiece. The rest of the lineup behind them combined to get five hits and no walks. Chris Davis, batting fifth, also had a multi-hit game.
The defense hasn’t helped either, with three errors on the day, including two throwing errors committed by Manny Machado. These led to a pair of unearned runs. As the Orioles gave up eight other runs, there are other run-prevention problems to reckon with, like waiting until March 21 to sign a starting pitcher you desperately need.
With the Red Sox off to what is for them a franchise-best 12-2 start, the Orioles now find themselves facing a 7.5 game deficit in the division with the season not even 10% in the books. They are also already 4.5 games out of a wild card spot. It is not a question of bad luck. They are playing some miserable-to-watch baseball right now, with disappointing performances from all but a handful of players. This must stop before the hole they are digging gets too deep to escape from in time to do anything fun in the standings.
The O’s will try again to get a win in this series in a game scheduled for 1:05 on Sunday afternoon, though it’s uncertain to what extent the weather impacting games in the Midwest on Saturday will be rolling through Boston by Sunday. The game time temperature there is forecast to be below 40 and there may be precipitation arriving with the cold air that could impact either Sunday’s or Monday’s schedule.
If all goes as scheduled, Dylan Bundy will be pitching for the O’s. As the lone good O’s starter through three outings, that’s nice to know, though the O’s hitters will be facing Chris Sale, who has been on fire to begin the 2018 season. Temper those expectations, if you were foolish enough to have any.