Five months into the season, the Orioles are finally starting to see the form from Alex Cobb that led them to give him a four-year contract at the end of spring training. Cobb continued his month-long dominance by turning in a complete game effort against the Indians. Though Cobb has also been undone by poor run support, the O’s scored enough for him to be on the right end of a 4-2 victory.
Saturday afternoon’s game against the Indians was not the sort of game that the O’s have been winning very often this season. They managed just five hits in the game and the only runs scored were driven in by home runs. That’s often a recipe for a loss.
On this occasion, Cobb pitched well enough that a three-run home run in the third inning by Jonathan Villar was enough to power the O’s to victory, with a little extra insurance added in the eighth inning when Cedric Mullins went deep for the first time in his MLB career. Thanks to Cobb, the Indians also picked up only five hits in the game, and none of theirs went for extra bases.
Hitting two home runs is a good way to score four runs. By the way, not a single Oriole reached base safely between Villar’s home run and the one hit by Mullins. That was 16 retired in a row by Cleveland pitching. How many games this season have we seen where something like this is said of the sad Orioles offense?
This has been especially true when the O’s were facing an unheralded starting pitcher. Saturday afternoon, that was Indians starter Adam Plutko, making just his seventh ever start at the big league level as a fill-in for the battered Cleveland rotation.
The only difference between those other games and today was the O’s starter, Cobb, going the distance and giving up two runs instead of allowing five runs in six innings or something else bad. He only issued one walk, too. The result was a brisk game that began at 4:05 and was over before 6:30. Living in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox, you might forget that such quick games are possible.
If you blinked, you missed the action. The O’s struck first with a one-out rally that began by #9 batter Austin Wynns drawing a walk on four pitches. Mullins followed up on the very first pitch he saw with a bunt single so good it left Cleveland’s defense confused: both the pitcher and first baseman converged on the well-placed bunt and nobody was covering the bag.
The speed of Mullins is an asset the Orioles have lacked all season and now they have it. Sometimes, good things happen when your players are fast. This is true on defense, particularly outfield defense, and it’s true at the plate as well.
With two men on base, Villar fell behind Plutko 1-2 before working a full count. Villar laid off the pitchers pitches and then he was rewarded with a 90 mile per hour fastball right down the heart of the plate. Call it what you like: A cookie, a meatball, center cut, down Broadway, or any one of a variety of more vulgar references.
The pitch went where MLB hitters are going to do great damage. Villar did not miss. He blasted off on the pitch, a titanic shot that he could not help but admire before he began his home run trot. When all was said and done, Villar had his third home run as an Oriole and ninth of the season and the O’s led the Indians, 3-0. In case you were wondering, Jonathan Schoop has yet to hit a home run with the Brewers.
That was just about the end of the Orioles offense for the day. They needed no more. That’s not to say that there weren’t any hairy moments along the way, with the Indians stringing together three consecutive one-out singles off of Cobb in the sixth inning to put the tying runs on base and the go-ahead run at the plate in the form of Michael Brantley. The Indians left fielder drove in the second run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Cobb had two outs but was not out of the woods with MLB home run co-leader Jose Ramirez. The Indians third baseman entered the game with 37 homers on the year. Any time he is at the plate, there is danger that is readily apparent.
However, at first base, shortstop Francisco Lindor, who hit the third of the singles to drive in the first Indians run, did not get the memo. Lindor took off for second base on the first pitch Cobb threw to Ramirez. Wynns threw a strike to second and Lindor was tagged out, his eighth time caught in 27 tries this year. Wynns has now thrown out six of 14 runners. Just like that, the inning was over.
Ramirez led the seventh inning off with an eight-pitch battle that ended in a walk. Still nothing to sneeze at with the tying run on base with none out. With one out, Yonder Alonso hit a single that got Ramirez over to third base. Trouble again! Cobb defused it just as quickly: Melky Cabrera grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw, ending the inning. No Indians reached base in either the eighth or ninth innings.
The complete game has Cobb now on a stretch of seven starts dating back to July 13 where he has posted a 2.12 ERA in 46.1 innings. The Orioles have now won two of those seven games. Ouch. Cobb’s ERA for the season has dropped to 5.09 after the month-plus of performance. Double ouch. Let’s hope this good version of Cobb is here to stay for the next three seasons.
In Oakland, the Athletics beat the Astros, 7-0, so the O’s tragic number for playoff elimination is down to three - that is, combined O’s losses or Athletics wins. They will be eliminated soon, but whatever happens, they will not be eliminated tomorrow. The Royals play the White Sox on Saturday night. If Kansas City loses, the O’s and Royals will be tied for worst record in MLB at night’s end.
The O’s and Indians finish off the three-game set on Sunday afternoon at 1:05. Yefry Ramirez and Mike Clevinger are the scheduled starting pitchres for the finale.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 18, 2018?
This poll is closed
Alex Cobb (complete game excellence)
Jonathan Villar (beautiful three-run homer)
Cedric Mullins (two hits including first MLB dinger)