Cobb's career-high pitch count vs. Reds was ‘right thing to do' originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO -- The bullpen at Oracle Park is not nearly as visible as it was 11 years ago, when Bruce Bochy sent Shane Loux to secretly warm up in the batting cage behind the dugout because he didn't want Matt Cain to see a reliever run out to the mound as he worked on a perfect game.
Giants relievers now get loose more than 400 feet from the plate, with thick green padding and a chain-link fence separating the field from the two bullpen mounds. On Tuesday night, with every reliever wearing sparkling-white City Connect hoodies, there's little chance that Alex Cobb would have noticed someone getting ready even if he would have tried. From Sean Manaea to the Rogers Twins to Tristan Beck, there were enough big bodies down there to hide the action, anyway.
Cobb never took a peek, but when his one-hitter was over and he had thrown his 131st pitch in the Giants' 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds, he did take a moment to thank manager Gabe Kapler. He knew Kapler didn't have anybody warm up as the pitch count reached an uncomfortable territory, and he knew Kapler never wavered when Cobb was just four pitches away from his previous career-high for pitches after eight no-hit innings.
Kapler and his coaches have spent four seasons diligently tracking every throw that's made and being overprotective of arms. But for a second straight night, the manager threw caution to the wind.
A game after Kyle Harrison threw a season-high 91 pitches in a dominant home debut, Cobb went 14 past his previous high to chase a no-hitter. Kapler sat back and enjoyed the show.
"I think at some point you're just like, 'What are you going to do?' " Kapler said, laughing. "He's pitching his ass off. He's the best guy to get the next hitter out. He still has all of his stuff. The right thing to do is to let a guy who's going like that continue to go."
The Giants let Cobb chase the no-hitter, only for him to fall short when Spencer Steer lined a double into the gap after 26 outs. Even then, Kapler let him finish the one-hitter. Cobb had thrown more than 110 pitches just 14 previous times in 226 starts and had not done it since 2021. The 35-year-old's season high was 109, which came when Kapler let him chase and get his first shutout in over a decade way back in April.
Cobb admitted after the game that he "felt dead." But he also was appreciative.
"Obviously you get the crowd noise and you're running out and they're playing your walk-out [song] and the fans are on their feet, and you have all sorts of adrenaline from the fans," Cobb said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in that position. I was definitely not lacking adrenaline, but my body will definitely feel it tomorrow."
This was a position Kapler had not been in often with the Giants, and there's always been some curiosity about how he would handle it. The Giants might be an organization that now leans very heavily on the numbers, but it's clear there's room for romanticism, too.
There's also room for practicality. Kapler and his coaches had a plan if Cobb gave up a hit, and they ended up using most of it. They figured that a visit from catcher Patrick Bailey and another from pitching coach Andrew Bailey would give Luke Jackson enough time to get loose if Cobb faced just one more batter. That happened after the double, but Cobb struck out Elly De La Cruz to clinch the one-hitter.
The 131st and final pitch was 93 mph, and Cobb twice hit 95 just before the first and only hit. For Kapler, that was a sign the pitcher still was feeling good and it was safe to push forward.
"You're watching the pitch count, you know that it's a big workload for the guy, but he's also been very efficient all the way through the game," Kapler said. "Sometimes a guy can throw 90-95 pitches, and it looks like that's way more taxing than what we saw with Alex."
Kapler mentioned multiple times how Cobb saved the bullpen a bit, and that could pay off if he ends up needing some extra rest. The Giants don't have a day off until Sept. 7, but they now have a bullpen full of rested "bulk innings" guys and they can add an extra arm when rosters expand in a couple of days.
If the staff decides to slide a bullpen day in front of Harrison and Cobb to give them extra rest, it'll be easy to do. But Kapler didn't have any concerns as he soaked up the best performance of Cobb's career.
"I'd bet on that being -- because it was so efficient -- something that boosts him rather than does anything detrimental," he said.