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Small ball, bullpen picks up outlier Cobb start in 4-3 win over Phillies



© D. Ross Cameron | 2023 May 16

Alex Cobb, one of baseball’s most accurate pitchers, matched his career-high in walks, threw two wild pitches and committed a balk. 

Cobb issued more walks than he has in over two years, leading to his shortest start of 2023, but the Giants made it a mere speed bump.

San Francisco (19-23) scored four runs on nine singles and a blooped double. Their struggling bullpen shut down Philadelphia from the fifth inning on, with the A-list of the Rogers Brothers, John Brebbia and Camilo Doval allowing one run in 5.2 innings.

For the 2023 Giants, the bullpen-forward and move-the-line approach were, like Cobb’s start, uncharacteristic. But it played in a 4-3 victory.

“Cobb’s picked us up so many times this year, so it’s kind of cool to return the favor,” Taylor Rogers said postgame. “We all know that you have those days that you struggle. Respect to him for grinding through that struggle and keeping the game close. I know he was happy with the job we did, but we’re happy for the job he did too. That’s a tough spot to be in, and that’s why he is who he is.”

Cobb stranded a runner on third in each of the first two innings, but the zeroes he put up were in spite of a decline in command. With one out in the third inning, he doubled his previous season-high in walks when Bryce Harper took four pitches for Cobb’s fourth walk issued of the night. 

After walking Kyle Schwarber later that inning, Cobb keeled over with his hands on his knees. He hadn’t walked five batters since May 4, 2021. 

But Cobb punched out J.T. Realmuto to end the inning, keeping Philadelphia scoreless and stranding two more runners — two in each of the first three innings. 

The walks, from Cobb in particular, were stunning. He entered with 1.51 BB/9, ranking ninth among all pitchers with at least 40 innings. His 1.70 ERA led the National League. 

The Giants offense did what the Phillies couldn’t do through the first three frames: string together runs with runners in scoring position. Four singles in the third, from Blake Sabol, LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada and Michael Conforto plated two runs for Cobb and SF. 

Finally, Cobb’s dam broke. Two loud singles put runners on the corner with one out. Cobb took exception to a balk called on a quick pickoff move that scored the game-tying run, and had to be held back from first base umpire Rob Drake by LaMonte Wade Jr.. Then came a wild pitch that advanced Cody Clemens from second to third and another that put Trea Turner on first after striking out. 

That undone strikeout was the last pitch Cobb threw, as he left Taylor Rogers with one out and Phillies on first and third — a familiar spot for the Giants on Tuesday. 

After 86 pitches and two earned runs, Cobb immediately found an iPad in the dugout to try to find out what went so wrong. Rogers picked Cobb up by striking out Bryce Harper and inducing an inning-ending groundout, leaving PHI’s seventh and eighth runners on base.

Like Rogers, the Giants’ lineup backed Cobb in the fourth inning, too — with the help of a poor Philadelphia defense. 

Casey Schmitt hit an infield single and scored on a routine pop fly to shallow right field off Joey Bart’s bat. The ball should’ve been an out, but first baseman Cody Clemens lost it in the wind and second baseman Bryson Stott was too late on his dive. Bart, who threw his bat down in disappointment after making contact, had probably the wonkiest double of his life. 

Bart then scored from second on Wade’s second single, just beating Kyle Schwarber’s throw from left field while opting against sliding into home. The Oracle Park crowd of 24,304 rose with bombast as Philadelphia’s challenge was deemed unsuccessful. 

To that point, the Giants had scored four runs on five singles and Bart’s “double.” Before Tuesday, the club was fourth in home runs and 13th in OPS, a disparity representing a lack of situational hitting. 

Their results Tuesday was a reversal in the season-long homer-heavy trend. So was the bullpen that registered the third-worst ERA in baseball. 

Rogers extended his scoreless streak to over a month, John Brebbia struck out half of the six batters he faced for 1.2 clean innings, Tyler Rogers worked around two singles to lead off the seventh and stretched for a scoreless eighth. 

The lefty Rogers has pitched 12 straight scoreless appearances since throwing his glove in the trash on April 12 against the Dodgers.

“Created a narrative, and I knew that wasn’t me,” Taylor said. “Grabbed a new Rawlings and started over.”

He and manager Gabe Kapler had a conversation pregame about his role; he’s been a closer and setup man recently, so he’s had to adjust to entering into earlier leverage spots. Kapler commended his resilience.

During the eighth, Sean Manaea — who lost his spot in the rotation — began to warm up, but the Giants couldn’t pad any more runs onto their lead so they needed to use closer Camilo Doval in the ninth instead. 

Doval allowed a two-out solo home run to Kyle Schwarber, but bounced back to close out Philadelphia by fanning Realmuto. The right-field water cannons shot for Doval’s 10th save of the season.

“Could’ve been a night where things completely unraveled,” Cobb said postgame. “Starter goes short and use up a bunch of bullpen guys and blow a lead, lose a game, really just sends the momentum south. For them to pick me up, come in, throw strikes, work multiple innings. Just gave everyone a hug when they came in and thanked them.”

The Giants didn’t get the start they needed from Cobb, but filled in the gaps in a way they haven’t been able to do much at all this year.