Cobb shows pitching's possible in Mexico City altitude

Right-hander notches 1,000th strikeout on the final out of his solid five innings

May 1st, 2023

MEXICO CITY – The Giants found a way to limit the long ball in the sky high Mexico City altitude on Sunday afternoon, but in the end, they were felled by a popup that found a hole in the outfield.

Matt Carpenter delivered a two-run, go-ahead double in the eighth inning that dropped just beyond the reach of a diving in shallow center field and allowed the Padres to rally for a 6-4 victory and sweep the Giants in the Mexico City Series at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú.

San Francisco took a 4-3 lead into the eighth behind a trio of solo home runs from , and , but the Padres tied the game on Jake Cronenworth’s RBI single off closer Camilo Doval and then went ahead for good on Carpenter’s 78 mph flare, which had an expected batting average of .060 – a hit probability of 6%.

Yastrzemski felt a pop in his left hamstring on his second step to the ball, but he still made a valiant diving effort and came within inches of making a sensational game-saving catch. 

“I kind of felt like it was at the point where it already happened, so I might as well try to catch the ball still,” said Yastrzemski, who ended up limping off the field. “I wish things would have gone differently.”   

Said manager Gabe Kapler: “If he’s healthy on that play, I think he records that out.”

Yastrzemski will undergo an MRI exam on Monday to determine the severity of the hamstring strain, though he’s likely to miss time, prompting him to joke that he’ll have to extend the club’s Mustache May tradition into June. If he lands on the injured list, the Giants could elect to keep rookie on the roster as their left-handed-hitting center fielder.  

“It’s a bummer, but I’m just trying to keep the spirits high,” Yastrzemski said. “We’ll see where it goes [Monday].”

The Giants squandered a strong effort from veteran right-hander , who struck out seven over five innings. Cobb knew the elements would be challenging after watching the Giants and Padres combine to hit 11 homers in San Diego’s 16-11 victory on Saturday, but he managed to minimize damage, allowing three runs on seven hits -- only one of which left the yard.

Cobb, a sinkerballer who entered Sunday with a National League-best 62.5% ground-ball rate, said catcher encouraged him to mix in more curveballs and throw more fastballs in to keep Padres hitters from extending their hands and getting the barrel on the ball, which had been flying in the thin air. 

“Watching the game [Saturday], knowing I was going to pitch today, your mind starts racing a little bit,” Cobb said. “I threw a couple bullpens while I was out here. The ball wasn’t moving very much. Just kind of showed up and fortunately I had enough stuff moving to at least get me through five.”

Cobb opened his outing with four scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run homer to Austin Nola in the fifth. Juan Soto followed with a two-out single to cut the Giants’ lead to 4-3, but Cobb managed to strike out Xander Bogaerts swinging on a curveball to end the inning. 

It was the 1,000th career strikeout for Cobb, who has a 2.43 ERA through six starts this year.

“It does mean a lot,” Cobb said. “It’s a lot of years, a lot of work that’s been put into that. I think that it’s an arbitrary number, but it looks really pretty and it’s a moment for you to look back and reflect.

“I vividly remember the first one I ever had in the big leagues. I’ll remember that one now, too. Just to know that all that went on with my career in between those two, it’s nice to have moments like that to sit back and appreciate your career.”

The Giants ended April with an 11-16 record following their two-game sweep in the Mexican capital, though Cobb said the club is looking forward to getting back to sea level in Houston following a taxing weekend abroad. 

“We had it right there in our grasp, and it slipped away a little bit,” Cobb said. “It’s hard to really just go back and evaluate this series and really try to make adjustments off it. I really enjoyed it, the environment was great, everything was great, but this isn’t really the way we play baseball normally.

“You don’t really want to go back and try to nitpick what guys did or wish we attacked differently just because you’re kind of just going up there and dealing with whatever you’ve got and trying to make it work.”