Cabrera's debut a winner, 1-0

Pitcher earns victory in 1st game, but O's fall to White Sox, 6-5, in 2nd

Cabrera: `I felt a little nervous'

Before rain delay, Bedard allows homer to Konerko that decides second game

May 14, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Few things lift a baseball franchise like a sterling performance by a young pitching prospect, which is why the Orioles were a little less somber last night after one of the season's most crushing defeats.

In Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Daniel Cabrera allowed just two hits over six innings in his major league debut, and the Orioles held on tight for a 1-0 victory.

In Game 2, Erik Bedard overcame some of his own demons before the dark clouds rolled in again. Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer, giving the White Sox a sixth-inning lead only moments before the heavy rains came.

When play finally resumed - after a 102-minute delay - the Orioles came out flat and fell to the White Sox, 6-5.

For the Orioles, the long day at U.S. Cellular Field turned into a push, both in the standings and in their heads. They had come here riding a three-game winning streak and left town after losing two of three.

Afterward, manager Lee Mazzilli felt for Bedard (0-1), who remained winless in five starts as his ERA climbed to 5.64.

"He's one pitch away from having one of those games where you come out of it feeling real good," Mazzilli said.

The entire day seemed charmed before Konerko hit his home run.

After the exhilarating performance from Cabrera, the Orioles erased a 3-0 deficit with a four-homer outburst against White Sox starter Felix Diaz, who was also making his major league debut in the second game.

Rafael Palmeiro hit his fifth homer of the season in the second inning. Then the Orioles hit three more homers in the fifth: a bases-empty shot from Luis Matos, a two-run blow from Jerry Hairston, and a bases-empty drive from Melvin Mora.

Bedard weathered a three-run, 34-pitch first inning and had retired nine consecutive batters as he took the mound in the sixth with a 5-3 lead. It started raining as the White Sox put two men aboard, and then Konerko crushed a letter-high, 0-2 fastball into the left-field seats.

"I hope [Bedard] learned from that," Mazzilli said. "When you're down in the count, 0-2, you can't let that happen. If anything, you've got to say, `A homer can't beat me.' "

Bedard said he was trying to go inside with the pitch against Konerko, a dead-fastball hitter who entered the game riding a 2-for-31 slump but had a two-run single in the first and finished with five RBIs.

"It's hard, but you've got to deal with it," Bedard said. "Baseball is a game of ups and downs. Those are the downs."

Hours earlier, Cabrera put the Orioles on the other end of that spectrum, making the jump from Double-A to the majors look almost too easy.

His was the kind of performance that can lift an organization, top to bottom. The Orioles had signed him at the age of 17 and sent him to their dust-strewn academy in the Dominican Republic, where he learned from Carlos Bernhardt.

Cabrera, who will turn 23 later this month, started turning heads when he arrived at big league camp this month. After spending last season at Single-A Delmarva, he looked more polished and more mature.

The gangly, 6-foot-7 flame-thrower finally had a mound presence.

"He was the surprise of the spring," said Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan. "Every year you have one of those, and this year, he was it."

With other Orioles pitching prospects such as Adam Loewen, John Maine and Denny Bautista grabbing the attention, Cabrera quietly dominated the Eastern League, holding hitters to a .121 average.

In his past two starts for Double-A Bowie, he notched 22 strikeouts and one walk.

"Our guys liked him down there at Double-A, and we liked what we saw at spring training," Mazzilli said. "But I don't know, you shut down a team like this, with the offense that they have, it's pretty good pitching."

Cabrera had a 1-0 lead when he first took the mound. With two innings from Rodrigo Lopez, and one from closer Jorge Julio, who earned his sixth save, the Orioles protected the narrowest of margins for 27 outs.

Brian Roberts started the game with a single against White Sox starter Jon Garland (2-2), then stole second and advanced to third when the throw from catcher Sandy Alomar bounced into center field.

Roberts scored when Melvin Mora singled to left field, and that was the only run the Orioles would need for Cabrera, the confident right-hander.

"The first pitch I threw, I felt a little nervous," Cabrera said in words Orioles batting practice pitcher Rudy Arias translated from Spanish to English. "But after that, I felt all right."

Cabrera, who finished with three walks and three strikeouts, used an 88-mph slider to fan Chicago leadoff man Willie Harris in the first, and a major league career was born.

He stuck mostly with fastballs in the early inning, hitting 94 mph on the radar gun, and retired 15 batters in a row at one point. Mazzilli pulled him after six innings with his pitch count at 91.

"He hasn't gone more than 95 [pitches] in any start," Mazzilli said, "and we wanted to get him out of there on kind of a good note."

With young pitchers, that's always the goal. But when Bedard was finished, the Orioles left Chicago singing the blues.

Cabrera's debut

Daniel Cabrera's first start for the Orioles yesterday was a memorable one.

IP H R K B Pitches

6 2 0 3 3 91

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