Alex Cobb really only made two mistakes.
Sometimes that’s good enough, especially when the mistake is to a hitter like Angels leadoff man Cameron Maybin.
Don’t get me wrong, Maybin is a perfectly fine baseball player—he’s just not someone who regularly punishes mistake pitches quite so dramatically. But today when Cobb missed his location and left a fastball over the middle, Maybin caught it right, hitting a no-doubt leadoff home run. Shucks.
Up next was Mike Trout.
So as you may have heard, Trout is also a perfectly fine baseball player, and unlike Cameron Maybin, he is someone who regularly punishes mistake pitches. Cobb’s first pitch to Trout was eerily similar to the one to Maybin, and the result was—this time predictably—the same.
It’s a shame, because aside from those two pitches Cobb was really very good, working almost entirely fastball/curve (he threw two split-changeups, back to back, both to Danny Espinosa, and both for balls). The highlight of his night from the pitching perspective came in the top of the fourth, when after a bit of hard luck he found himself with a man on second and third and no outs. The Rays walked Kole Calhoun to load the bases, and then clearly went looking for a double-play groundball.
Cobb’s strategy was to pound Martin Maldonado on the inside edge of the plate, and he executed it beautifully, eventually drawing a weak chopper that he was able to glove and turn into a 1-2-3 double play. Another weak grounder from Danny Espinosa ended the inning.
Game of Inches
On the other side, the Rays were unable to touch Matt Shoemaker for much of the night, with their only hit over the first six innings coming off a Tim Beckham bunt. In what seemed like a cruel taunt to Alex Cobb, Shoemaker’s splitter was especially filthy, falling off the table to put Rays hitters away seemingly whenever Shoemaker needed the strikeout. But in the seventh inning the Rays got their chance.
With one out, Logan Morrison (who hit the ball hard all day), grabbed an elevated fastball and pulled it into the corner for a standup double. Tim Beckham (who had been made to look silly in his previous at bat) showed a patient eye and worked a walk despite going down in the count early. Then Colby Rasmus was given a hanging backdoor curve, and he hit it high and far to right field.
I thought it was gone and that the Rays were up 3-2, but Rasmus had gotten just a little bit too far under the pitch for it to be a no-doubter. There was a ton of hangtime, which means that Calhoun was able to make his way back to the wall. If the stadium held the fly ball, there was a good chance Calhoun could make the play, so with one out and a difficult read, the runners had to remain in position to retreat to their base.
The stadium did hold it, but Calhoun could not make the play. Instead the ball bounced off the very top of the padding on the wall and back onto the outfield—an easy carom. A foot further and the Rays lead. A lower trajectory and it’s clearly off the top of the wall and the game is tied. An out later and the game is tied. But as it was, no runs could score, the bases were loaded, and the Angels had the chance to make a pitching change. Yusmeiro Petit struck out both Steven Souza Jr. and Derek Norris, passing his own “bases-loaded test.”
Line drives and ground balls found enough holes in the Rays infield in the eighth inning to stretch the Angels’ lead to 4-0.
Some other notes:
- Andrelton Simmons is good at playing shortstop.
- In the fifth inning, Shoemaker put two fastballs up and in to Souza in a sequence that eventually ended in Souza drawing a 10-pitch walk. I just want to note here that while it looked like Shoemaker was brushing Souza back, and this the type of moment we’ve seen hitters take exception to (ahem Miguel Cabrera), there was absolutely nothing wrong with this sequence. Pitching inside is just something that good pitchers sometimes do. Honestly, they weren’t really that far inside. Souza was crowding the plate.
- Right now, Albert Pujols is really slow.