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Indians hitters mesmerized by Alex Cobb in loss

By PAUL HOYNES • Aug 18, 2018 at 10:13 PM

CLEVELAND — Alex Cobb has lost 15 games this season. The Orioles, the team that pays him, has already been eliminated from the AL East race.

But Cobb still knows how to beat the Indians. He did it back in 2013 when the Terry Francona express was just starting to gain steam in Cleveland. He did it again on Saturday, ruining Jim Thome Day for Indians fans.

Cobb beat the Tribe in the 2013 wild-card game, 4-0, while pitching for Tampa Bay. On Saturday, he pitched the Orioles past the Indians, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd that came to see Thome, the Indians' newest Hall of Famer, have his No. 25 retired.

The loss ended the Indians' six-game winning streak. It was just their third loss in the last 14 games.

Rookie Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.62) pitched well in his return to the rotation for injured Trevor Bauer. He allowed a three-run homer to Jonathan Villar in the third and that was it over seven innings.

"Early on he wasn't commanding," said Francona. "He was pitching from behind and paid for it. Then he really reeled it in and pitched like he can pitch. He pitched ahead, commanded his fastball, started using his breaking ball and really pitched well."

Plukto struck out six, walked one and allowed three hits.

Cobb (4-15, 5.10) was just better. He held the Indians to one hit through the first five innings. They made it a 3-2 game in the sixth on Francisco Lindor's single and Michael Brantley's sacrifice fly.

Yan Gomes and Greg Allen made the runs possible with consecutive one-out singles from the bottom of the order. Allen's single extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

The inning ended when Lindor was caught stealing with Jose Ramirez at the plate. Asked what he thought of Lindor's aggressiveness, Francona said, "I like his aggressiveness, but I also like when he's safe. But again, the ballpark was playing so big today (wind blowing in from center field), that your chances of getting a single were a heck of a lot better than a home run."

The Indians had a chance to tie or take the lead in the eighth, but couldn't convert. Ramirez drew a leadoff walk and hustled to third on Yonder Alonso's one-out single to right. But the inning ended when Melky Cabrera bounced into a first-pitch 4-6-3 double play.

Should Francona have told Cabrera to at least take one pitch?

"We felt like we were in a really good spot with a ton of speed on the bases," said Francona. "You hate to ever tell a hitter to take.

"It was over so fast. But I wasn't really referring to that at-bat. We felt like we were in a great place, but eventually, we weren't. But, like I said, I don't think you can take the bat out of a guy's hands."

The Orioles added an important insurance run in the eighth when rookie Cedric Mullins hit two-out homer off Neil Ramirez for a 4-2 lead. It was the first big-league homer for Mullins and the ninth Ramirez has allowed in 31 2/3 innings.

Ramirez has allowed five of the nine homers in his last 9 2/3, which has left Francona and Ramirez frustrated.

"It's hard to figure out when he's going to give them up," said Francona. "A lot of pitchers will lead you to it. Like you see them struggling.

"But, he can strikeout two and then leave one in the middle and it gets whacked. It's frustrating. I know it's frustrating for him, because he's throwing the ball really well."

The complete-game five-hitter was Cobb's first of the season and the fourth of his career. His last complete game was Aug. 31, 2013 against the A's.

"He had a really good splitter, a curve ball he can throw at any count," said Alonso. "That's a guy right there who had a lot of rhythm and control of the strike zone. He used our aggressiveness against us."

Cobb entered Saturday's game 1-8 in his last 12 starts. The win made him 4-2 in his career against the Indians. He's 3-1 at Progressive Field.

What it means

The race in the AL West can't get any tighter, which means the Indians aren't sure where they'll be headed in the ALDS should they hang onto first place in the AL Central.

Oakland beat Houston, 7-1, at the Coliseum on Saturday to move into a first-place tie with the Astros. The A's have won two straight against the Astros, while the Houston has lost eight of its last 11 games.

The A's and Oakland are not only tied for the AL West lead, but the second wild card spot, three games behind the Yankees. The Indians trail the AL West leaders by 3 1/2 games for the right to host the best-of-five ALDS in October.

Houston still leads the season series with the A's, 9-6.

The pitches

Plutko threw 97 pitches, 60 (62 percent) for strikes. Cobb threw 99 pitches, 68 (69 percent) for strikes.

Thanks for coming

The Orioles and Indians drew a sellout crowd of 35,007 Saturday afternoon to Progressive Field. First pitch was at 4:07 p.m. with a temperature of 79.

It was the eighth sellout of the season for the Indians.

Up next

Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (8-7, 3.38) will face Orioles right-hander Yelfry Ramirez (1-4, 5.40) on Sunday in the final game of the season series between the two times. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR/FM 95.3 carrying the game.

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