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O's struggle to contain Rays' hot bats in loss

Cobb lasts 4 2/3 innings as Orioles drop series opener
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- Orioles starter Alex Cobb took the mound in the top of the fifth inning Wednesday with a two-run lead in the middle of his best outing of the season. And then it all fell apart.

The righty surrendered four runs in the inning, five in total, to his former club and was lifted after a two-out walk, marking his third consecutive short start since joining the O's. Cobb's outing set the tone in an 8-4 series-opening loss to Tampa Bay. Baltimore has now lost 12 of its past 14 games and is 12 games under .500.

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BALTIMORE -- Orioles starter Alex Cobb took the mound in the top of the fifth inning Wednesday with a two-run lead in the middle of his best outing of the season. And then it all fell apart.

The righty surrendered four runs in the inning, five in total, to his former club and was lifted after a two-out walk, marking his third consecutive short start since joining the O's. Cobb's outing set the tone in an 8-4 series-opening loss to Tampa Bay. Baltimore has now lost 12 of its past 14 games and is 12 games under .500.

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"It's the best I've felt throwing the ball," Cobb said of the second through fourth innings. "I was really thinking this is going to be one of those nights where I put it on kinda cruise control. I see a spot and I hit it. I coast through six, seven innings. That's what I thought it was shaping up to be. And it came to a screeching halt there."

A late spring signing, Cobb was the Orioles' big acquisition as the club went outside of its comfort zone and agreed to a four-year deal with a free-agent pitcher. So far, he hasn't looked like the hurler billed to be at the top end of the rotation, as Cobb has allowed 30 hits in his first 11 2/3 innings with Baltimore, giving up 17 earned runs over that stretch.

"His command was pretty good tonight," Orioles catcher Chance Sisco said of Cobb, who is trying to play catch-up after missing Spring Training. "He was throwing all three pitches for strikes for the most part. He had that one rough last inning, but command was better tonight."

Video: TB@BAL: Sisco cranks a solo home run for first of '18

As the Tigers did in Cobb's last start, in Detroit, the Rays kept the ball on the ground against him, but found holes. After Adeiny Hechavarria hit a leadoff single to start the fifth, Denard Span dropped a bunt and C.J. Cron doubled the pair in. Two long fly balls helped score Cron and a double, single and walk followed to spell the end of Cobb's night.

"We know what he's going to bring over the long haul," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Cobb. "It's just a situation where he's kind of getting a little bit better each time. He had a couple of borderline pitches he just missed and some balls he got in some areas he didn't want to get into. He's just trying to execute, and it's not quite there yet. He knows when it's right, and he knows when it's not. He's a tough evaluator, almost to a fault."

And Cobb continued his tough self-evaluation after Wednesday's rough outing, making no excuses for his early-season struggles.

Video: TB@BAL: Davis lays out to rob Wendle, ends the frame

"This whole search that I'm on, trying to get right, is tough," said Cobb, who watched the Rays capitalize on some hanging curveballs. "It's tough to watch. It's tough to play behind. It is even more tough to be out there on the mound doing it. There are no excuses."

Red-hot Tampa Bay, winners in five straight, added on after Cobb's exit. Miguel Castro surrendered a solo homer to Hechavarria in the sixth, and lefty Tanner Scott was tagged with two more runs on three hits in the seventh. Wednesday's game marked the first time in Rays history that the team has scored eight or more runs in four straight games.

New Oriole Jace Peterson drove in a pair of runs on an RBI double in the second inning. Sisco's one-out solo homer chased starter Jake Faria in the fifth.

Video: TB@BAL: Peterson plates a pair with a double in debut

HE SAID IT
"It's the toughest thing I've had to do as a big leaguer. Just feel like you're behind and going turbo speed to kind of catch back up with everybody. ... This is tough, but got to find a way to get it going and get it going quick. I know I will. It's hard to see from the outside because nobody knows me, and nobody has really seen me go through struggles in the past. But I know when I have the ball what I can do with it. Just a matter of getting there." -- Cobb, on his struggles this season

UP NEXT
Dylan Bundy will get the ball on Thursday night opposite Rays righty Chris Archer. Bundy finally got a much-deserved first win on Friday against the Indians, striking out nine. The O's ace has 40 strikeouts this season and just nine walks to go with a 1.42 ERA.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

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