MINNEAPOLIS — After wearing the same uniform for the past four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays Mark Giordano 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 Youth Matthew Tkachuk Jersey ,” 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, 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 Michael Frolik Jersey , 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.
PHOENIX — Give Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray an “A” in self-evaluation.
Ray won his final six regular-season decisions in 2017 after missing a month with a concussion suffered when he was struck in the head by a line drive in St. Louis on July 28. Then last Wednesday, he spun six scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over Florida in his first start after missing 58 days with an oblique injury.
Ray will face the Cardinals again on Monday, in the first game of a three-game series at Chase Field. Right-hander Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals.
“Obviously, I’m not going to go out there if I don’t feel 100 percent,” said Ray, a first-time All-Star in 2017.
“There is a constant line of communication between me and Torey (manager Lovullo). He was open with me. He wanted me to make another rehab start. I made it clear that I felt like I was ready. It felt good to be back on the mound and to be good to put up some zeroes for this team and help us win.”
Both Arizona and St. Louis enter the series after being swept, the Diamondbacks losing three to NL West rival San Francisco and the Cardinals dropping three to NL East-leading Atlanta.
That was only a slight hiccup for the Diamondbacks, whose 19 victories in June tied for the most in the majors. They led the majors with 11 triples and were second in runs in the month. Starting pitchers had 15 victories, also the most in the majors, capped by wins by Ray and Zack Greinke in the final two games of a four-game series in Miami early last week.
The D-backs have lost only two of their last 10 series Jamaal Williams Jersey , both to San Francisco, while recovering from a 2-15 skid in May.
“You are going to have ups and downs,” Ray said. “That was a little bit of an extended down, but good teams find a way to break out of that. I feel like we’ve done that this month.
“It’s another thing we have going on. The dynamic in this clubhouse, we are never down on ourselves. Guys were in here playing music every single day. Nothing has changed. We understand that there is a process, and you have to stick with it. The second that you start changing who you are and over-analyzing a little bit, it can weigh on you.
“We just come in there every day like it’s a new day. We prepare every day the same way, and we don’t change anything.”
The Cardinals have been careening a bit. They have lost four in a row after winning four straight, a run that ended another three-game losing streak. They have lost 12 of 18 since peaking at eight games over .500 on June 11.
St. Louis has scored 11 runs in their last four games after clobbering Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, scoring six runs off his in 1 2/3 innings, the shortest outing of his major league career.
Martinez (4-4) won that game, his first in five starts since returning from the disabled list, giving up two runs with eight strikeouts in six innings. He had a 1.62 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list and has 6.75 ERA in five starts since returning. His issue has been walks Jimmy Howard Jersey , 43 in 72 2/3 innings.
The Cardinals have considered moving first baseman Jose Martinez to the outfield in an attempt to increase their run production, but Martinez started at first again Sunday.
“The bat has to be (in the lineup),” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters over the weekend. “You’ve got a guy who’s been as consistent as anybody we’ve had all season. So you’ve got to find a place for him.
“We’ve never ruled out the outfield. None of that is out of the question. We haven’t featured that yet but it’s something that has been in the conversation. He’s been doing work out there, too. But, right now, it’s how do we improve at first base?”
Carlos Martinez has had good success against Arizona, with a 2.88 ERA in eight appearances. That ERA ranks 20th among active major leaguers with at least 30 innings against the Diamondbacks. Martinez has been even more successful at Chase Field, with a 2.11 ERA, fifth among those with at least 20 innings.
Martinez has given up one homer against the Diamondbacks, that coming to Gerardo Parra in their first meeting. Since then, he has gone 33 1/3 innings without giving up a homer to them.
Ray (3-0) is 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals. He was removed after being struck by Luke Voit liner in the second inning of the July 28 start last season.