One of the great joys of baseball is that, on any given night, you never know what to expect. Your team could play the kind of game that you’ll never forget, a truly breathtaking performance that will be swirling around in your mind for a lifetime. Dare to dream. Nothing is impossible.
That said, when your team gives up three straight home runs in the first inning, you should probably just turn the game off and find something else to do.
The Orioles were doomed from the beginning in their series opener in Minnesota, with their gruesome first inning setting the somber tone for a 6-1 loss.
A week ago, when Alex Cobb last faced the Twins, they chopped him up and ground him into a fine paste. He was bludgeoned for nine runs and 10 hits — three of them homers — while recording just eight outs. Tonight, though, was Cobb’s big chance at redemption. An opportunity for sweet, sweet payback. Revenge is a dish best served cold, et cetera, et cetera.
Cobb confidently took the Target Field mound like a man on a mission, and dispatched the first two batters on groundouts. Okay, here we go! The good Alex Cobb is back! You had your fun last time, Twins, but this time Alex Cobb is here to —
Oh, Nelson Cruz hit a home run. Well, fine. He’s done that to a lot of pitchers, including Cobb himself last week. Just gotta shake it off and —
Oh, Eddie Rosario also hit a home run. Hmm. That’s definitely not ideal, and Cobb stared regretfully toward home plate, hand on hip, as the ball left the yard. But hey, the guy has 11 roundtrippers this year, so there’s no shame in that. Let’s just bear down and get the final —
Oh. C.J. Cron also also hit a home run, a mammoth 430-foot blast into the second deck. This time, Cobb stomped off the mound as the ball disappeared from sight, then angrily snapped his glove and shouted as he received a new baseball. Was he shouting at himself? Or at those darn juiced baseballs? We may never know.
In any case, it wasn’t until the sixth batter of the first inning that Cobb finally recorded out number three, but the back-to-back-to-back home runs had put the O’s in an early hole from which they never recovered.
Cobb, too, never really recovered. The Twins scored on him in three of his four innings, though ugly Birds defense was more to blame for one of those runs. With a runner at first and one down in the third, second baseman Jonathan Villar booted a tailor-made double play ball that would’ve ended the inning, instead settling for the out at first. Rosario followed with a fly ball to deep center. Joey Rickard retreated to the wall, backtracking awkwardly, then got himself handcuffed by the ball and dropped it on the warning track. The error plated the Twins’ fourth run.
Cobb had nobody but himself to blame for the fifth and final run on his ledger. In the fourth inning, he served up yet another meatball that Max Kepler absolutely demolished to right field, a 438-foot blast that had MASN’s Gary Thorne exclaiming, “Oh my gosh. OH MY GOSH!” It was that kind of game, folks.
Cobb didn’t return for the fifth. With his four-inning dud of an outing, his ERA stands at 10.95 after three starts, and he’s been tagged for an unfathomable nine home runs in 12.1 innings, a tidy HR/9 rate of 6.6. Not great!
For good measure, Gabriel Ynoa coughed up the Twins’ fifth home run, a solo shot by Cruz for his second of the night. The Orioles, who had actually gone two straight games without allowing a long ball, were back to giving them up like they’re going out of style. O’s pitchers have now given up 64 home runs in 27 games, and my goodness do I wish that were a typo.
I will say, though, that Ynoa did a nice job in the Mike Wright Memorial Mop-Up Role, eating up 3.1 solid innings of relief to help save the bullpen, and Miguel Castro struck out both batters he faced to quash an eighth-inning Twins rally.
The Orioles’ offense had a huge hole to climb out of, and they were not up to the task. Twins starter Martin Perez dispatched them with relative ease. He retired the first nine batters of the game, then worked out of his first jam in the fourth, allowing two singles to start the inning but escaping with no damage. A Dwight Smith Jr. RBI knock in the sixth accounted for the Birds’ only run against Perez, who delivered a six-inning quality start.
The top of the eighth provided a brief glimmer of hope when the O’s loaded the bases, but Trevor May retired Hanser Alberto on a groundout to stifle the threat. The Birds put two more runners on in the ninth, but Trey Mancini was rung up on a game-ending strikeout. The Orioles were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on this night, because the game wasn’t already going poorly enough.
And that’ll do it. A gopherball-prone pitching staff, a sloppy defense, and a nonexistent offense formed a potent concoction of ineptitude for the Orioles tonight. They’re now 0-4 against the Twins this year, with just two games remaining before the season series wraps up this weekend.