ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb's homecoming at Tropicana Field got off to a rocky start. But once the righty recorded his first out, which came after the Rays plated a run on three hits, he got plenty cozy. In fact, he was nearly unhittable the rest of Tuesday evening.Cobb allowed
ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb's homecoming at Tropicana Field got off to a rocky start. But once the righty recorded his first out, which came after the Rays plated a run on three hits, he got plenty cozy. In fact, he was nearly unhittable the rest of Tuesday evening.
Cobb allowed just two more hits over seven innings against the Rays, an organization with which he spent his first 12 years. The righty struck out three in the 101-pitch outing. He worked around a pair of potentially troublesome walks in the fourth, but there's one thing he didn't do: go deep enough for it to hold up.
Instead, Cobb watched as a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and Willy Adames' walk-off homer handed the Orioles a tough 4-3 series-opening loss to the Rays.
"He made the adjustment. He was feeling for the command on his fastball early, and that's probably the best split he's had all year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Cobb, who has allowed one earned run in three of his past four starts. "He's really pitching at a high level like we knew he would once a lot of things got hopefully sorted out.
"He's had some really good games for us very quietly. Because of the struggles of our team, I think it kind of goes unnoticed."
Cobb, who has a 2.25 second-half ERA, is finally starting to look like the guy the Orioles envisioned when they committed four years to him as a free agent this spring. Unfortunately, it's much too late for last-place Baltimore, which traded away six key players last month, to relish.
Still, Cobb's emergence and regained confidence in his changeup were positive takeaways in an impressive final six innings of his start.
"Before, I was really a two-pitch pitcher. And you can't get through the lineup without having good command of all your pitches, especially only two pitches," said Cobb, who retired the final 10 Rays he faced. "So, I think a combination of having command and three plus pitches is why I'm able to see that lineup three times through and go deeper into games."
While Cobb was a bright spot, the growing pains of an Orioles club in rebuild mode were on full display in the eighth inning as Evan Phillips -- acquired in the Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day trade to Atlanta -- issued three walks and was charged with two unearned runs.
Adames went deep in the next frame, sending reliever Miguel Castro's offering into the left-field seats to seal Tampa Bay's seventh walk-off win this season.
"We're going to do what's best for the Orioles long-term," Showalter said of using Phillips in the tight eighth. "We got a double-play ball [to first baseman Chris Davis] potentially that we don't convert. Otherwise, I'd be talking about what a good outing that Evan had except for the command a little bit. That's a young pitcher. He'll have a lot of one step forward and two steps back."
Trey Mancini and Timothy Beckham each had solo homers for the O's, who out-hit the Rays 7-6 on the night. Baltimore dropped to 2-5 on its final leg of a three-city road trip and has won just two of its last 17 games away from Camden Yards.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Davis' error sets up big inning:Matt Duffy hit a ground ball in the bottom of the eighth right to Davis, who fired an errant throw to second base on a routine play that helped Tampa Bay score two unearned runs in the frame. One came in on a wild pitch by Phillips, and the other scored on Carlos Gomez's double-play ball with Paul Fry pitching.
"His command was a little bit more of a challenge," Showalter said of Phillips, who made his Orioles debut with a solid outing in Texas over the weekend. "He's close to getting [Mallex] Smith out to lead off the inning and gets behind the count with the changeup right out of the chute. But he got a big potential double-play ball. … I can't tell you what things like that do for a young pitcher when you can get something like that and things settle in a little bit.
"But [Fry] came in and did a great job to come out of that the way he did and give us a chance to get back in there. That inning could have gotten away from us."
Mancini homered for the fourth time in his past nine games after hitting just five in the previous 50.
HE SAID IT
"I know Cobb. He's going to go out and toe the mound, no matter the circumstances, and he's going to come ready to play. That's what he did tonight. He settled in, we got him the lead and he threw the ball well. He was using everything -- curveball, changeup. Kept those guys off-balance. Tough loss for the boys tonight." -- Beckham
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Jonathan Villar saw his insurance run in the top of the eighth inning taken away after a replay review of one minute and 19 seconds showed he was out at home plate.
The Orioles will send Andrew Cashner (3-10, 5.05 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday night against the Rays. The righty allowed a career-high 10 runs on seven hits in Thursday's loss to the Rangers. Cashner lasted just 1 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year. He'll try to bounce back in the 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field, opposite Rays opener Ryne Stanek (1-3, 2.27).
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.