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Cobb exits after 2 with blister as O's drop opener

Starter's return to mound this season uncertain; Villar hits long homer among 2 RBIs
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- One of the highlights in a rocky second half for the Orioles has been watching Alex Cobb return to form after a tough start to the season. Cobb, the O's big free agent prize who signed a four-year deal this spring, has been the Orioles' best starter since July. He's one of the few players with Baltimore who has kept improving as the team sold away pieces, holding a 2.56 second-half ERA.

Unfortunately, he didn't get much of a chance to better that mark on Tuesday. The 30-year-old Cobb, who had Sunday's start pushed back to manage a blister, succumbed to the frustrating abrasion on his right middle finger after just two innings in the 3-2 series-opening loss to the A's at Camden Yards.

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BALTIMORE -- One of the highlights in a rocky second half for the Orioles has been watching Alex Cobb return to form after a tough start to the season. Cobb, the O's big free agent prize who signed a four-year deal this spring, has been the Orioles' best starter since July. He's one of the few players with Baltimore who has kept improving as the team sold away pieces, holding a 2.56 second-half ERA.

Unfortunately, he didn't get much of a chance to better that mark on Tuesday. The 30-year-old Cobb, who had Sunday's start pushed back to manage a blister, succumbed to the frustrating abrasion on his right middle finger after just two innings in the 3-2 series-opening loss to the A's at Camden Yards.

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"It's frustrating, because I think we did everything we could to give me the opportunity to go out and pitch today," said Cobb, who has been managing what he deemed more of a cut for a while now. "But there's really only one way to test it, and that's to pitch in a game. Obviously, in the second inning, [I knew] it wasn't going to hold up the whole time. Felt good the first inning-plus with my stuff.

Video: OAK@BAL: Cobb freezes Chapman in the 1st inning

"[I] was looking forward to going out and competing. It's fun when you've got a team like Oakland that is in a good chase. You like to measure up with them, see where you're at. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do it."

Cobb, who held a scorching Oakland team to just one hit in the abbreviated outing, took the game with him. The A's scored three runs in the third off reliever Mike Wright Jr., which was enough to earn a win and keep them nipping on Houston's heels in the race for the American League West title.

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"I thought he was on his way to another good outing tonight, and he was crisp, carrying a good fastball," manager Buck Showalter said of Cobb. "He was really frustrated up the runway, regardless of what kind of stuff he might have been carrying and what he could have done. Alex really dug out of a hole here since July, and it's been fun to watch him get a return for how much he cares."

A roster infused with new players and promoted prospects saw Wright -- who broke camp with the O's -- surrender an RBI double to Matt Chapman and run-producing singles to Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty. Wright went on to toss three innings after settling down for a quick fourth and fifth.

The Orioles, coming off a 1-8 road trip, managed little offense. Jonathan Villar's homer, which came in the sixth inning off of righty Mike Fiers, was Baltimore's first run. Villar also drove in a run in the eighth with a single.

Video: OAK@BAL: Villar smashes a solo homer 421 feet

As for Cobb's next step, no one is quite sure. The Orioles will continue to try to manage the cut and evaluate whether it's a smart thing for the righty to continue taking the mound.

"He can bleed and he's fine. It's just what [other issues] you may end up causing," Showalter said. "Do I think he'll pitch again? Yes. But it could be in five days. Who knows? [Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel] and his group and Alex have done a great job of managing it for probably two-thirds of the year, so we'll see."

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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Villar stays hot: Opportunity abounds for the Orioles in the final month of the season, and perhaps no one is seizing it more than Villar. The shortstop, who was acquired from the Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop trade, has seven homers -- his latest on a 3-1 changeup driven to center field -- to go with 21 RBIs in 36 games as an Oriole.

Video: OAK@BAL: Villar plates Valera with a single to left

SOUND SMART
The Orioles are 0-90 when trailing after seven innings this season.

HE SAID IT
"I don't have an answer. I don't know what it's going to look like in the coming days or what we're going to be dealing with. We'll reassess it tomorrow, and the goal is obviously to continue to pitch at some point this year. I just don't know when that will be." -- Cobb, on if he will pitch again this season

UP NEXT
The Orioles will send Andrew Cashner to the mound for Wednesday night's game as the A's counter with a bullpen game opened by Liam Hendriks. Cashner will try to snap a personal skid of four straight losses, including his start last Wednesday, when he allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings vs. the Mariners. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Alex Cobb