CLEVELAND -- Alex Cobb has been honest, almost brutally so, this season as the righty slogged through the first three months of the season with one dismal start after another.
It was the most mystifying stretch of his career, a late signing snowballing into missing most of Spring Training. Another alarming storyline in an Orioles season brimming with disappointments.
But as the O's eye the future, Cobb -- signed for three years beyond this one -- continues to make good on his early-season promise to figure things out. The righty, armed with a 3.12 ERA in eight games entering Saturday, turned in his best one yet. Cobb held the Indians to two runs in a complete-game effort, pitching past the seventh inning for the first time all season in the O's 4-2 win over the Indians.
"It was tough early on in the season, dealing with just the failures, not only as a team but me personally, and feeling like I really contributed poorly to the first half," said Cobb, who was 2-12 with a 6.41 ERA in 17 starts before the All-Star break.
"You try to pick yourself up and build on some positives and make a run with that, and really show that you can contribute, you should be here. That's been my focus since I got here, really."
Backed by homers from Jonathan Villar and Cedric Mullins -- the latter of which was his first career big league blast -- Cobb was on cruise control for most of the afternoon. The righty allowed just one hit through the first five innings and was able to get a huge double play with runners on the corners in the seventh. With a triumphant skip and fist bump after getting Melky Cabrera to bounce to second, Cobb breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth, diving for a ball in the ninth en route to his first complete game since 2013 with Tampa Bay.
"If that doesn't fire you up," catcher Austin Wynns said of watching Cobb lunge for a ball in that final frame, "It's like, he's a dog, like he is an animal out there. He is a different person. Pitchers just need to have that sense of, like … this is my game, I'm doing it, and I was with him the whole way, same page. And that's why we had a day like today."
Villar put Baltimore on the board, sending a full-count offering from Adam Plutko into the soldout seats at Progressive Field for a three-run homer in the third.
Mullins delivered his first career homer with a one-out solo shot in the bottom of the eighth inning off Indians reliever Neil Ramirez.
But the afternoon belonged to Cobb, who showed off his fielding prowess and held the first-place Indians to five hits in his fifth consecutive quality start. The righty, who has four career complete games, now has an impressive 2.03 second-half ERA and has quickly become a bright spot for last-place Baltimore.
"Alex seemed to dial up what was needed," manager Buck Showalter said. "You could tell from the first inning. He took a lot of the crowd out, I thought. That's a really hard lineup to do that."
Cobb, who has been working with a faster tempo over his last few outings, gave a lot of credit to the rookie Wynns.
"He's grown so much since he first got up here. He's learned me as a pitcher and what I like to do, and he's helped me navigate through lineups and starting to get a lot more confidence back there in his pitch calling, and trusting his eyes too," Cobb said. "I told him after the [complete] game, that's his. It's nice to see when you have young guys come up, grow and be able to contribute as quickly as he has."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lindor caught stealing: Both of the Indians runs came in the sixth inning and it looked like Cleveland was poised to finally thwart Cobb. But Francisco Lindor tried to swipe second base with two outs and Wynns threw him out, quashing any hopes of a Tribe rally and putting the momentum back in the visitors' dugout.
"He's their best runner almost, and then [Cobb] held him really well, he held him," Wynns said. "He paused and held it for like five seconds almost and then he threw it. It was him, he set it up for me. I was just trying to get it there and it's him, just slapped it on. It was perfect."
Villar is batting .271 with two doubles, three homers, nine RBIs and seven runs scored in 15 games with Baltimore.
HE SAID IT
"Oh, it was awesome. The seeds getting thrown in my face. I never had that happen before. I think one got me in the eye a little bit, but it was fun to be able to get the first one out of the way." -- Mullins, on his first career homer
Video: [email protected]: Mullins drills his 1st career homer
"Alex, the split has been big for him. He made a lot of tough pitches, especially in this ballpark against this lineup. [On] Jim Thome night, I kept waiting for Thome to come out on deck." -- Showalter, on Cobb
The Orioles will send Yefry Ramirez to the mound for Sunday's series finale in Cleveland. Ramirez allowed two runs in five innings in his most recent start against the Red Sox last Saturday. He'll be opposed by Indians righty Mike Clevinger. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET.