Cobb rebounds with scoreless outing vs. O's

Flores makes most of start at DH by going 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs

June 4th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- rebounded from his worst start of the year with one of his best. 

Cobb allowed five hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings as the Giants blanked the Orioles, 4-0, on Saturday night at Oracle Park to snap a three-game skid and climb back to .500 (29-29).

Cobb, who pitched for Baltimore from 2018-20, walked none and got each of his seven strikeouts on his splitter, which accounted for 59 of the 103 pitches (57%) he threw against his former club. It was easily his highest splitter usage of the year, the result of an adjustment he made with his delivery after surrendering a season-high seven runs over four innings in his last start against the Brewers on Sunday. 

“Coming off my last outing, I was just a little bit lost,” Cobb said. “When you have those types of outings, you’re just kind of running mechanics in your mind over and over until you get another opportunity. … I felt something pretty good with my delivery that allowed that split to just kind of bite more. I was getting too much run on it. I know when that pitch is on that I can throw it however many times I threw it tonight. I had some good success with it. When that pitch is on, it’s usually the plan.”

The 35-year-old right-hander ended up inducing 11 of his 12 swinging strikes with his splitter, helping him lower his ERA to 2.71, the fourth-best mark in the National League. Cobb faced the minimum through the first four innings and took a shutout bid into the eighth inning, though he was tested after the Orioles put runners on second and third with one out. 

Cobb coaxed a groundout from Jorge Mateo before giving way to left-hander , who retired Adam Frazier to end the inning. 

“He had a really good split,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Cobb. “He was all over the zone, obviously, totally in control of his pace and his rhythm. Throwing a lot of strikes, getting ahead, staying ahead, efficient. Really good outing.”

First baseman doubled twice and reached base in four of his five plate appearances, while designated hitter went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to back Cobb.  

With the emergence of young infielders like Casey Schmitt and Brett Wisely, the Giants have struggled to find regular playing time for Flores, who got only his third start since May 22 on Saturday. Kapler said he met with Flores before the game to acknowledge that it’s been tough to find spots for him in the lineup, though he praised the 31-year-old infielder for taking the difficult situation in stride.

“When you’re not playing regularly and your swing is not exactly where you want it to be, that is as challenging as any job in the sport,” Kapler said. “I just wanted Wilmer to know that I know what he’s going through, to some degree. And I wanted him to know that I acknowledge that I haven’t put him in the best spots to have success. In an ideal world, Wilmer is playing regularly, at least several times a week, and we haven’t even been able to guarantee him that.”

Limited largely to pinch-hitting duties in recent weeks, Flores entered Saturday only 6-for-41 (.146) over his last 17 games, but he made the most out of his return to the lineup. Batting cleanup against Orioles right-hander Kyle Bradish, Flores roped a double to left field in his first at-bat in the first inning and then delivered a two-run single to cap the Giants’ three-run rally in the third.

“I’m always ready to play and take advantage of any opportunity,” said Flores, who also singled in the fifth. “There are things that I can’t control. What I can control is just staying ready.” 

Flores’ playing time will likely become even more challenging to manage once Thairo Estrada and Joc Pederson come off the injured list, but Kapler said he’s confident in Flores’ ability to adapt to the evolving role and continue to come through in big spots for the Giants. 

“I don’t think his performance to date this season is really indicative of what he’s capable of,” Kapler said. “Maybe earlier in the season when he was raking, that’s more of what we come to expect from Wilmer. There are going to be ups and downs, and there are going to be even more ups and downs when you’re not getting regular playing time. It’s been a tough spot for him, and I respect the professional that he is. He hasn’t complained about it one time.”