MINNEAPOLIS — After wearing the same uniform for the past four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays Darqueze Dennard Jersey , Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi face off Sunday as Cobb’s Baltimore Orioles try to avoid a sweep when they take on Odorizzi and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
With the Rays in a full-blown rebuild, both pitchers found new homes this past spring. Odorizzi was traded to Minnesota early in spring training while Cobb was one of the many free agents who waited out an unnerving winter before eventually signing a four-year, $57 million deal with Baltimore late in camp.
Now, only a week away from the All-Star break, neither pitcher — nor his team — is having the kind of season they anticipated Opening Day.
It’s been especially painful for Cobb (2-10, 6.53 ERA), whose deal was the largest offered to an Orioles pitcher. The right-hander was expected to be a stabilizing force in a rotation that had designs on a postseason berth but instead, he slumped out of the gate and went 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA through his first 12 starts in an Orioles’ uniform.
Through that, there have been flashes of the pitcher Baltimore had in mind when it made the deal. He’s held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 15 starts overall, including his last time out when he held the Phillies to three while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings.
“Alex is going to be a good pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He is a good pitcher at times this year. It’s hard. It’s hard. He’s hardened from pitching in the American League. He knows the fine line between success and failure.”
With his team holding baseball’s worst record and buried in the basement of a division dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox, Cobb knows the playoffs aren’t even a pipe dream at this point. But he still has a goal of finishing the season strong and setting the stage for a bounce-back campaign in 2019.
“I don’t want to say take it almost spring training-like, but we have to do whatever it takes for each and every one of us to get better going forward,” Cobb said. “When you get hung up on results, I think that you let that cloud the process that’s going on to make yourself get better. I don’t want it to be framed to any fans or front office, coaching staff, that we’re not going out there trying to win ballgames. We absolutely are, every single night.
“But we also need to not be so result-oriented and take the small progressions that we’re making and get better. If we want to compete later on this year Dre Kirkpatrick Jersey , next year, we need to get better each and every one of us — individually.”
Cobb is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three starts versus Minnesota.
Things haven’t been much better in the Twin Cities, where Odorizzi (3-6, 4.57 ERA) was expected to be a key addition to a Twins team that was thought to be a contender with Cleveland for the AL Central title after making an unexpected trip to the American League wild-card game a year ago.
He opened the year on a high note, going 3-2 with a 3.17 ERA through his first 10 outings but has struggled with consistency since, posting a 6.81 ERA over his last eight starts.
“It’s upsetting and frustrating … it’s not something I take lightly,” Odorizzi said of his struggles late last month. “I take a lot of pride in getting guys out. Trust me, I’m more frustrated about this than anybody in this clubhouse. This has been one of the tougher stretches in my short big-league career.”
Odorizzi has shown signs of bouncing back in his last two outings. He held the White Sox scoreless for six innings, allowing three hits while striking out eight, but took a no-decision June 28 in Chicago and followed that with a strong showing in Milwaukee where the Brewers managed only two runs while striking out nine times over five innings.
Odorizzi, who hasn’t won since May 8, is 5-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) versus Baltimore.
Buster Posey certainly thought he got hit by a pitch in retaliation.
Manager Bruce Bochy is still disappointed the Marlins plunked Evan Longoria last week and the third baseman is now recovering from surgery on his left hand.
Miami’s Don Mattingly insists nobody on either side was intentionally hit and became upset that the umpires warned both teams too quickly.
Posey homered in the first, Gorkys Hernandez hit a two-run drive in the second and an RBI double later, and the San Francisco Giants held their lead this time to beat the Marlins 6-3 on Tuesday in another night of plunking by both pitching staffs.
Marlins starter Dan Straily and Mattingly were automatically ejected in the second after Straily hit Posey on the left arm with a pitch. Both sides had been warned by plate umpire Andy Fletcher the previous inning after Giants rookie starter Dereck Rodriguez beaned Lewis Brinson as tempers flared for a second straight game.
Whether it was intentional by Straily, Posey said: ”I don’t know. It sure seemed that way.”
Three players were hit and both benches warned early, upsetting Mattingly that the warning came after only his player had been hit.
”I think everybody knows if you give one warning after one guy then you’re asking for trouble out of the blue,” Mattingly said.
He added: ”I’m sure Rodriguez didn’t mean to hit Brinson and Straily didn’t mean to hit Buster. … If they thought there was going to be something going on they should have given both teams warnings before the game. If they thought it was intentional on their part, (Rodriguez) should have been out of the game.”
The tension began during Monday’s series opener when Hunter Strickland took exception to Brinson’s celebration following his tying RBI single in the ninth off the Giants closer Geno Atkins Jersey , who blew the save and took the loss. Brinson appeared to say something to the reliever on his way to first. Brinson was at third when Strickland was pulled and the two exchanged words.
The Giants closer later broke his pitching hand punching a door in frustration and had surgery Tuesday.
Rodriguez (2-1) struck out six over five innings. He hit Derek Dietrich in the fourth but it wasn’t considered intentional so he was safe from being tossed from his fourth career start. He had a no-decision in a 16-inning Giants win against the Marlins last Thursday.
Straily was ejected for the first time in his career while Mattingly got tossed for the 35th time as both player – seven times – and manager.
”My response I guess would be: Were they throwing at Longoria? (Kelby Tomlinson) got hit in the back last night, so that’s my response, were they throwing at him?” Bochy said.
Elieser Hernandez relieved Straily (2-3), who had been 4-0 with 2.82 in his initial six starts against the Giants.
Andrew McCutchen immediately singled and Brandon Belt drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Giants up 4-0 – the same lead they held in the early innings Monday only to squander it and fall 5-4 as Strickland gave it up and lost his cool. He will be out six to eight weeks.
JT Riddle hit a two-run triple in the fourth following singles by Starlin Castro and Miguel Rojas. Brian Anderson’s RBI double four batters later snapped an 0-for-10 stretch over his previous three games.
The Giants added on in the fifth with consecutive RBI doubles by Alen Hanson, his second of the night, and Hernandez.
Posey sent the first pitch he saw from Straily midway up the bleachers in left-center before Hernandez – who didn’t hit a single homer all last season and now has eight – connected following Hanson’s double leading off the second.
The Marlins left the bases loaded in the second after Rojas reached on second baseman Joe Panik’s one-out throwing error and Riddle singled before Brinson was plunked.
STRICKLAND’S (LATEST) PUNCH
An X-ray after Monday’s game revealed the break of Strickland’s pinkie, similar to what sidelined lefty ace Madison Bumgarner to begin the season after he was hurt in his final spring training start.
Strickland, who apologized on social media Tuesday, had shown Bochy maturity since his fight with Nationals star Bryce Harper in late May of last year.
Bochy said after the game Sam Dyson would be his regular closer. Dyson came in to relieve Will Smith and record the final two outs on a double play for his second save.
Marlins: 1B Garrett Cooper (bruised right wrist) played four innings for a second straight game at Class A Jupiter and was set to continue his rehab with Triple-A New Orleans.
Giants: SS Brandon Crawford is expected to rejoin the team from paternity leave Wednesday and play again Thursday. … All went as expected with Longoria’s surgery on his hand and he was accompanied by athletic trainer Dave Groeschner at the procedure in Los Angeles. Longoria was headed to Arizona and is in a soft cast for a few days then is scheduled to rejoin the Giants in the Bay Area on Friday or Saturday. … RHP Johnny Cueto, who threw a 40-pitch, two-inning simulated game Monday, is likely headed out soon to begin a rehab assignment as he works back from inflammation in his pitching elbow. … RHP Pierce Johnson was on his way from Triple-A Sacramento to take Strickland’s roster spot.
Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (2-8, 4.18 ERA) looks to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season and build off his best outing of 2018. He tossed eight shutout innings Friday at Baltimore.
Giants: LHP Derek Holland (4-7, 4.48), coming off a loss last Friday at the Dodgers, pit
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