BALTIMORE -- Nearly four months ago to the day, with afternoon temperatures in the 40s and a strong New England spring wind, Alex Cobb took the mound at Fenway Park for his season debut and got shelled.The O's starter -- the shiny new righty who was signed to a four-year
BALTIMORE -- Nearly four months ago to the day, with afternoon temperatures in the 40s and a strong New England spring wind, Alex Cobb took the mound at Fenway Park for his season debut and got shelled.
The O's starter -- the shiny new righty who was signed to a four-year deal in late March -- couldn't get out of the fourth inning and departed with his team trailing by seven runs after serving up 10 hits and a walk.
Cobb faced that same Red Sox lineup on Sunday, but that's where the similarities ended. The 30-year-old, who has quietly put together a terrific past month, went seven strong innings in the 4-1 series-sweeping loss at Camden Yards, providing a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable fifth consecutive defeat.
"Outstanding. He was great. He's been that way for a while now," manager Buck Showalter said of Cobb, who has quality starts in five of his past six outings. "He's been solid. When you think about [it], in time of need, with our bullpen situation, that was as good as you can expect. Especially the last out. Alex has really got a feel for the split now. I think that was a byproduct of [his early struggles]. It took him a while to get a feel for it.
"I don't want to say it was all around [missing] Spring Training, but it's been a three-pitch mix and different speeds, and it's really allowed him to finish up against left-handed hitters."
Cobb's resurgence, which centers around the use of his changeup, is something Baltimore can take solace in as it begins a rebuild. Signed for his prowess in the American League East, Cobb tied his season high in innings Sunday and held the Red Sox to two runs (one earned) in his fourth consecutive quality start.
"Through all of this whole season, there were obviously a lot of challenges early on, but every single day I've come and tried to give everything I have to getting better and progressing. It's just something that has taken some time," said Cobb, who believes there's still another level to reach.
"It's not a one-thing-clicked [situation]. It's every day, letting the mind and body sync up, figuring out the right arm path and taking all the information every single day that you put out there. Whether playing catch or throwing a bullpen [session], you're always getting information back with what the ball is doing. You try to take that and build on it each day and get back to form."
Cobb was a victim of the Orioles' suspect defense, with an unearned run in the fourth on Adam Jones' bobble in right field, but he never wavered as he went toe-to-toe with Sox ace Chris Sale. Sale made his return from the disabled list on a limited pitch count, and the O's struck out 12 times over Sale's five innings, recording just one hit -- Renato Nunez's single in the third inning.
"Sale took it to a different level," Showalter said. "The first fastball he threw today was 98 [mph], the second one was 99. He was throwing a changeup at 88, 90. Doesn't seem fair."
Former Oriole Steve Pearce homered off of Cobb in the first for his only earned run. Cobb issued two walks (one intentional) and struck out seven in the 106-pitch outing.
"It's the toughest lineup in baseball over there. If you start trying to worry about the pitcher, too, I'd have my hands fuller than they already are," Cobb said of opposing Sale.
"I was able to watch from behind, and it's just stuff you never see on a big league field like that. It's very impressive what he's able to do with the ball, and I fell on the wrong day to pitch against him."
Trey Mancini put the Orioles on the board with a sacrifice fly off reliever Matt Barnes to cut the lead to one in the eighth, but that was as close as they'd get.
"We're gonna grind it out until the end of this season, no matter what our record is, no matter if we're going to the playoffs or not," Orioles shortstop Timothy Beckham said. "We all have pride in here. So that's what we're intent to feeling. We have pride. We're gonna play to win no matter what our record is, no matter how many games we have left."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Close, but no cigar: The O's put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth on Barnes' wild pitch before Mancini came through to make it 2-1. But Barnes hunkered down and struck out Beckham to keep the Sox's lead intact.
Prior to the game, the Orioles honored the Mamie Johnson Little League team from Washington D.C., at Camden Yards. The team made history as the first predominantly African-American team to reach the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament earlier this month. Jones helped fund their trip.
HE SAID IT
"What you talk about is how close the games were. I was telling [bench coach] John [Russell], they get the tack-on run late. That's what we did when we were real competitive. Those are the type of things you have to do. Obviously, they are more than just a good offensive club. The point I would make is you see what our record is and see what their record is, and all four games, there were moments where we were very close to winning the game. But that's what happens at this level, it's a small separator. And there's some experience factor, too." --Showalter, on the four-game sweep
The Orioles will enjoy an off-day at home on Monday before Andrew Cashner takes the mound for a two-game series against the Mets at Camden Yards. The O's took the first two in New York earlier this year, and they will face lefty Jason Vargas in Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. ET opener.
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.