If I told you that, for five innings, Alex Cobb kept the Blue Jays hitless, drew a ton of weak contact, and pitched into the seventh inning, you’d conclude he’d had a great outing, correct? Eh. Sort of. This one figured to be a Battle of the Starters, and while Cobb looked really good tonight, the results weren’t quite there.
Cobb’s first two innings were masterful. It took him all of twelve pitches to slice and dice his way through the Blue Jays’ first six hitters. Cavan Biggio, Randal Grichuk, and Travis Shaw made quick outs in the first: a sonorous pop fly, a hard grounder at Rio Ruiz, and a deep sac fly to stand-in LF Pat Valaika. Same deal in the second. Teoscar Hernández struck out in three pitches, Rowdy Tellez grounded out on the first pitch, and Vlad Guerrero, Jr. took a fastball for a strike, then flew out on the Cobb splitter. Easy, breezy, beautiful, Alex Cobb.
Everything went completely sideways in the third. Four weak ground balls for the Blue Jays turned into three baserunners and a run. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Joe Panik beat out grounders that Andrew Velazquez gloved flashily but fired late on, then on Cavan Biggio’s excuse-me swinging bunt Gurriel Jr. slid home under the glove of Bryan Holaday for the Blue Jays’ first run.
Maybe all that bad luck drove Cobb a little crazy. Maybe. In any case, the next thing he did was heave a slider right down the middle that Grichuk drilled into the stands to put the Blue Jays up 4-0. It was a stunning reversal. After giving up two hard singles, I thought Brandon Hyde might pull him, but Cobb buckled down to get two more grounders—outs, this time—and out of the third.
Then, as if the whole thing had been just some awful mirage, Cobb started getting groundouts and swings-and-misses again. The Blue Jays didn’t get a hit in the fourth or the fifth or the sixth.
Back out in the seventh, Cobb drew a flyout and a groundout before his luck ran out again. He gave up his first walk of the game, then a ringing single that Núñez smothered, and then conceded Run No. 5 on a dying quail behind second base. That would do it for the veteran righty.
What about those dominant Orioles’ bats, you ask? Like Alex Cobb, they, too, looked a little better than the score showed, but we’re in the realm of consolation prizes here. The Orioles showed good approaches against Ryu, fouling off a lot of pitches and forcing him to show all five of his pitches (yes, Ryu can command five pitches—a fastball, cutter, sinker, changeup, and curveball). But the bats were pretty much flummoxed all game.
Two bright spots in the lineup were Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins (betcha didn’t see that one coming). Santander had two great at-bats against Ryu tonight, singling after 10 pitches in the first while Ryu threw him everything but the kitchen sink. He did it again in the fourth, fouling off a bunch of breaking stuff before driving an outside fastball the opposite way. One batter later, Pedro Severino timed up Ryu’s sinker to drive Santander in and cut the lead to 4-1. Unfortunately, the rally died there. In the sixth, Cedric Mullins singled and engaged in a long staring contest with Ryu with Santander at the plate, but he was erased by a double play.
Cobb’s stalwart outing did save the bullpen, for the most part. The only relief arm Hyde had to turn to was Dillon Tate, making his first appearance of the season after a forearm injury earlier this year. I’m still not sure what to make of it. Tate has a power arm, but he misses a lot and his mistakes are pretty serious. Relieving Cobb with two outs in the seventh, Tate threw three straight balls before giving up a fly to deep center. It still counts as an out, but it’s less cute when you hang a breaking ball the next inning that also just dies at the warning track. Then Tate got a masterful strikeout when Vlad Guerrero Jr. swung through 96 at the top of the zone. But, back out in the ninth, he allowed a one-out walk and a home run—to the .234-hitting Cavan Biggio!—to put the game out of reach.
Solidly in the category of “too little, too late” was a minor rally by the Birds in the ninth. Cedric Mullins drew a leadoff walk (his second time on base in what was a nice all-around showing for him tonight), took second, and scored an anticlimactic second run for the Birds on a bloop single by Renato Núñez. Who cares, give him the RBI, I’m over this game.
Tomorrow night, the Birds face pretty much the opposite of Ryu in the fireballing rookie Nate Pearson. Here’s hoping for pretty much the opposite result.