Baltimore Orioles: Pitching-to-contact doesn’t cut it for Alex Cobb and the Birds

There was a lot of talk surrounding the Baltimore Orioles’ signing of Alex Cobb back in the spring, and how great of a move it was for the franchise. After his first start with the Orioles this afternoon at Fenway Park, a lot of fans are now questioning that move. I’m not suggesting that Cobb’s outing was great, but I would suggest that fans cool their criticism just a bit. The guy pitched in one game, at Fenway Park, against the BoSox. Cobb’s line: 3.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R (7 earned), 1 BB, 0 K.

Cobb pitched to contact during his truncated outing. The problem was, Boston was making contact the whole day. They took the lead right away in the first inning on Benintendi’s RBI-double, and on Ramirez’s subsequent two-run homer. Martinez would add a solo shot in the last of the third, and Cobb and the Orioles trailed 4-0.

Bentinendi would add a two-RBI single in the fourth, and Ramirez would bring him home with an RBI-double. Again, both Cobb and the relievers who came behind him were pitching-to-contact all day. In general, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. But when the opponent is a team in the midst of what’s now a 12-2 start and in fact is MAKING contact on everything that’s thrown up there, that can be a problem.

To make matters worses, Boston would net a run in the last of the fourth on a Machado throwing error – on what would have been a routine infield ground ball. And it’s small things like that which could eat this franchise alive. I’m not suggesting that Machado lollygagged the ball to first base, because I don’t think he did. I think he just made a bad throw. However at times guys can start allowing apathy to set in when games get out of control like this, and things like that can happen. And Boston happily took the run.

The O’s made an attempt to get back into it one inning later however, when Pedro Alvarez connected for a two-run homer. However again keep in mind that the criticism of this Orioles team is that the homer appears to be the only way they can score. But runs are runs, and you take them. However Boston bounced right back, with an RBI-single by Martinez in the sixth, and an RBI-single by Swihart in the seventh. The O’s would net one run in the end as Sisco grounded out, scoring Chris Davis from third.

Again, it’s tough to be overly critical of the Cobb given that he was pitching against a murderer’s row of hitters in a sandbox of a ballpark. It was also his first start with a new team after no spring games and only a few weeks’ worth of workouts and simulated games. That’s not to say that his pitches weren’t overly hitable this afternoon. Furthermore as I said, his plan seemed to be to pitch-to-contact. Once it was obvious that wasn’t working, he should have gone to secondary pitches more often.

Offensively, the Orioles are allowing themselves to be shifted on far too often. And it’s working. How often did guys hit the ball right at defenders…and at defenders that had shifted into that position? And that’s the result of swinging away far too often. In no way am I suggesting that they switch to small ball, because power will always rule the day in the AL East. However if a runner or two were on base when the homers came, that would even things out a bit.

For what it’s worth, the trailing two games of this series are very much in question. The forecast for Boston for tomorrow is for rain and potentially freezing rain in Boston all day – off and on. They’re also calling for up to an inch of rain on Monday during the Boston Marathon (when the O’s and BoSox have a scheduled 11 AM first pitch). So there’s a real possibility that the Birds may not play again until Tuesday in Detroit.

So weather permitting, the series continues tomorrow at Fenway Park. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Chris Sale. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

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