Giants' bizarre infield gaff proves to be costly in loss to Diamondbacks

Odd infield gaff costly in Giants' frustrating loss to D-backs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Alex Cobb has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in all of baseball this season.

Prior to his outing in the Giants' 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday at Chase Field, Cobb (5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) had been dominating on the mound as of late.

At the beginning of the season, the 34-year-old had experienced poor support defensively which played a role in his ERA climbing as high as 6.25 on May 23. Since then, the law of averages has worked in his favor and almost has become as reliable in the rotation as co-aces Carlos Rodón and Logan Webb.

However, in the bottom of the fourth inning of Saturday's outing with the score tied 1-1, Cobb had the bases loaded with one out and the tying run already in when Wilmer Flores fielded a groundball, stepped over the first base bag and threw high to catcher Joey Bart at home plate, who also was unable to record the force out and missed the tag on Daulton Varsho, who came crashing from third base.

Flores and Bart easily could have turned a double play that would have ended the inning, but the Giants failed to record even one out on the play. After the game, Giants manager Gabe Kapler discussed his initial reaction to the play.

"I watched the play like five times and I watched it in real-time," Kapler told reporters after the game. "And my first initial reaction was probably what everyone in this rooms was, Joey should know that's a force-play and have his foot on the plate."

After further analyzing the play, Kapler dissected what went wrong for both Bart and Flores and believes that neither player was at fault for what happened.

"Two things happened there that were very difficult for Joey to see, which was did Wilmer get the bag with his foot ... it was pretty difficult to tell," Kapler explained. "The second thing that happened was I think Joey still thought he had his foot on the plate, so I think he started with his foot on the plate, still felt like he had it on the plate and then had to reach for the ball, came off the plate and went for the tag. So I think all of that happened really fast.

"Now on Wilmer's end, I think he was like 'OK now the most important out I can record is at the plate.' Now he may have thought that he was close enough to the base where he might just graze the base with his foot and then deliver a strike to the plate and maybe get two outs. It was tricky. I watched that play over and over, I don't think anybody's at fault. I don't think it's Joey's fault, I don't think it's Wilmer's fault, I think it was a very very tricky play that didn't turn out in our favor and looked really bad."

Unfortunately for Cobb and the Giants, the miscue extended the inning and allowed Arizona to tack on three more runs.

For Cobb, this is an all-too-familiar feeling this season. Prior to Saturday's start, the righty had a 3.48 ERA, but a FIP (Fielding Independent of Pitching) of 2.92 and an xERA (expected ERA) of 3.20, two metrics that do a better job at determining how a pitcher is performing without the impact out outside factors, such as defense, for example.

"There were some unfortunate things that happened in the fourth, but we've talked about it a lot this year," Cobb told reporters postgame. "There's going to be a lot of plays that go my way and there's going to be a lot that don't. It was extremely frustrating, third time pitching here I feel like it's happened every time I've come here. It's partly a credit to their team, they don't chase the ball, they put the ball in play and they make weird things happen."

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As a groundball pitcher, Cobb has grown accustomed to either living or dying by the defense behind him. Saturday's outing ended a streak of 10 consecutive starts in which Cobb surrendered three earned runs or fewer.

Likely with two more starts remaining this season, Cobb will look to finish strong and he'll have to hope that his defense helps him out along the way.

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