At the end of the fourth inning tonight, Alex Cobb was cruising and protecting a two-run lead against his former team. Until he wasn’t.
As the rain picked up in the top of the fifth inning, the floodgates opened for Tampa Bay. The Rays scored four runs on five hits in the inning, and reclaimed the lead for good. Tampa Bay went on to defeat Baltimore, 8-4, in the first of what is now a two-game series.
Adeiny Hechavarria led off the inning with a single just past newcomer Jace Peterson at second base. Veteran Denard Span noticed the rain, and dropped a bunt down towards third base. Cobb fielded the bunt, but his throw forced Chris Davis off of the bag at first.
C.J. Cron pulled a double down the left-field line that scored both runners and tied the game at three. Span scooted around third and barely beat Manny Machado’s relay throw from shallow left field.
Cron advanced to third on a fly out by Carlos Gomez, and came around to score on a Brad Miller sacrifice fly. Suddenly, the Rays had the lead.
With the bases cleared and two outs, Cobb had an opportunity to escape the inning with only three runs allowed. However, Cobb (0-3) allowed a double to Daniel Robertson, and a Joey Wendle single made it 5-3 Rays.
Buck Showalter mercifully came out to get Cobb, and Miguel Castro came in to collect the third out.
Cobb allowed 10 hits and five runs in four-and-two-thirds innings. The Orioles prize free agent signing now holds an ERA of 13.11.
Cobb settled in early after a rocky start to the game. Span doubled the very first pitch of the game to left-center field, and advanced to third on a one-out single by Gomez. Span scored the first run of the game on a ground out by Miller. Cobb proceeded to hit Robertson, allowing another base runner with two outs. But Chris Davis made a diving play at first base on a sharply hit grounder by Wendle, and flipped to Cobb to avoid the third out. The play by Davis prevented a big inning for the Rays. As it turned out, it only delayed the inevitable.
The Orioles lineup showed some life right away. Trey Mancini led off the game by working a walk. With two outs, Adam Jones laced a hanging breaking ball to left field for an RBI double. Mancini never broke stride, and evened the game at one a piece.
Pedro Alvarez followed Mancini’s lead and led of the second inning with a free pass. Anthony Santander drove a double off the wall to the deepest part of the ballpark.
Then came the highlight of the day for the Orioles. Jace Peterson, who the Orioles recently claimed on the waiver wire, stepped up for his first at bat in orange and black. The former Yankee delivered with a double that stayed inside the right-field line. Both runners scored, and Peterson made a great first impression with the fans in Baltimore.
Chance Sisco turned around a fastball for a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth. The blast cut the Rays lead in half, but Baltimore failed to score for the remainder of the game.
The Rays got the run back with a Hechavarria solo shot in the top of the sixth, and added two more insurance runs in the seventh inning. Robertson doubled to right field and scored on a single by Wendle, and catcher Wilson Ramos doubled to score Wendle. Tanner Scott allowed the two runs in the seventh inning. Pedro Araujo pitched two scoreless innings before the Orioles failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth.
The Orioles could have won this game. Maybe if the rain held off, Cobb could have kept his command. What if Buck would have yanked Cobb before he allowed the fifth run? Would any of that have mattered? Who knows?
But the loss, the Orioles’ 18th in 24 games, is irreversible. They say that every team will win 60 games and lose 60. It’s what a team does with the other 42 that will determine its fate. Right now, 60 wins still feels like a long shot.
Of course the Orioles will turn it on at some point, right? Each passing loss provides an extra seed of doubt to that mindset. The Orioles will have a terrific chance to turn the page Thursday, when Dylan Bundy takes the mound against Chris Archer. Both pitchers sport 1-1 records, but Bundy’s 1.42 ERA trounces Archer’s 6.59.