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Cobb shrugs off pitching demons and deals

Alex Cobb returned to the mound with a redemptive shutout performance against Baltimore

Baltimore Orioles v San Francisco Giants Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images

Alex Cobb gripped his hat with two hands in exasperation as he watched Scott Alexander knock down a come-backer, slip on the infield grass retrieving the ball, and, as he succumbed to gravity and the splits, throw a soft, one-hopper to first to secure the third out in the 8th as well Cobb’s shutout performance.

Smiles lit up the dugout, but Cobb could only shake his head and muster a wary smirk as he went to congratulate his teammate at the top step.

A fierce competitor, it was going to take a moment for the adrenaline coursing through his bloodstream to subside and let him relax enough to celebrate a dominant outing and 4 - 0 San Francisco Giants win on Saturday against one of the best teams in baseball.

Through 7 innings, Cobb held the Baltimore Orioles to 3 hits and only one extra base hit. Only two at-bats went to a full-count: one ended with a swinging strike, and the other a meager two-out single in the 5th—Baltimore’s first hit since the 1st.

The only semblance of trouble Cobb faced in those first 7 innings of work was after Frazier’s two-out double in the 6th with Adley Rutschman coming to the plate.

Rustchman had singled in his first AB and fanned in his second. The third time facing Cobb felt worrisome. The young catcher has incredible bat-to-ball skills and has earned a reputation as a “night-ruiner” at the plate in the 6th inning or later, an ominous cloud for stretched starters or relievers, his bat a lightning rod for clutch hits.

Cobb didn’t seem fazed, burying a splitter down-and-away that Rutschman rolled weakly to LaMonte Wade Jr. at first.

The 7-run start in Milwaukee that ended Cobb’s May quietly tortured him through the end of the road-trip, the return home, the calendar flip into June, and the off-day. A private hell that could only be exorcised—cruelly, poetically—in the same place that caused such torment.

The mound as Calvary.

Late-life on his splitter, with vertical drop and jumping in on righties, and wraparound sinker movement carved up opposing bats, recording 13 swinging strikes—one shy of his season high. All 7 of his strikeouts were finalized with a whiff, all 7 delivered by his split-finger fastball.

It wasn’t until the 8th that cracks started to form in Cobb’s on-field performance.

A one-pitch out to start the inning was followed by Aaron Hicks collecting an infield single that Casey Schmitt corralled up the middle from second, but Hicks speed rendered the stop and Schmitt’s arm moot. Lefty Ryan O’Hearn then flipped a down-and-out splitter that nearly back-spun over the cars in left for a double. Those two hits nearly doubled Cobb’s game total and signaled that his night was near-done, or now done or probably should’ve been done after Hicks’ single.

But with the light-hitting righty Jorge Mateo in the box and Scott Alexander warm in the bullpen, Kapler elected to keep Cobb in for one more hitter. Deep trust in his veteran arm, or caught unbalanced, off-guard, a little unprepared with how quickly the Oriole threat developed—whatever it was, the brewing scrutiny dissipated after Cobb got Mateo to ground-out on a come-backer, and Alexander, with grace and aplomb, finished off Frazier.

Baltimore Orioles v San Francisco Giants Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images

Saturday was Cobb’s 6th start throwing through 7 innings. He did it 3 times in May and twice in April. It was his third time pitching in the 8th, and the second out he recorded that inning secured his second longest outing of the year—behind his complete game shut-out against the Cardinals on April 24th.

His final line: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, with a game score of 76, nearly matching the 78 score in the complete game against StL.

While Cobb kept the Orioles in line, the San Francisco bats held up their end of the bargain as well. It is paramount that opposing teams get to Baltimore starters before having to face an elite bullpen. The Giants weren’t able to do that yesterday in support of Logan Webb, but against RHP Kyle Bradish the opportunities came early and often.

As a whole the 3-for-13 with RISP and stranding 11 runners on base aren’t ideal numbers—it’d be nice to see more efficiency from the offense. The silver lining is bats continue to produce chances for San Francisco, and when the arms piece together a shut-out, you can go 1-for-100 with RISP and a single RBI, and the team would still bag a win.

Efficiency wasn’t the problem in the 3rd, as the top of the order linked up for 5 consecutive hits against Bradish, kicked off by a LaMonte Wade double. Davis flared a single to right to start the scoring, and Wilmer Flores bounded a 2-run single past a drawn-in infield after Mike Yastrzemski doubled Davis to third.

Bradish would be pulled after the 4th, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 5.

The insurance run for San Francisco came with a single off the bat of Austin Slater in the 6th. Hitting for Yaz in the 6th with runners at the corners against lefty Cionel Pérez, the outfield platoon laced an elevated slider to center for the Giants 4th run of the game, and Slater’s 32nd pinch hit RBI since 2018—a tally which leads all of Major League Baseball.

He then made a nice diving play on a line drive off the bat of Austin Hays, allowing Cobb to coast through a 1-2-3 7th.

LaMonte Wade Jr. went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 doubles. DH Wilmer Flores, who has been a little starved for plate appearances as of late, made this start count, going 3 for 4 with a double, 2 singles and 2 RBI.

San Francisco evened up the series against Baltimore and evened up their season record at 29 and 29. Rubber match with Anthony DeSclafani on the hill against RHP Tyler Wells. First pitch at 1:05 PM.