Angels dump 1st loss on Cabrera

Anaheim caps sweep, 8-3, pounding Orioles rookie for six runs in 4 innings

May 24, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - As if his recent promotion from Double-A to the big leagues hadn't brought enough challenges, Daniel Cabrera arrived in the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday shouldering a new burden.

Suddenly, this team needed more than a starter. It needed a stopper, or someone who could put an end to an untimely losing streak.

Five days shy of his 23rd birthday, Cabrera unraveled quickly beneath the task, as the Anaheim Angels pounded him for six runs in four innings en route to an 8-3 victory before another sellout crowd at Angel Stadium.

The Orioles (20-20) lost their fourth consecutive game, a season high, and fell back to .500 for the first time since April 15. Their stretch of 37 days above the break-even point was the longest since they went wire-to-wire atop the American League East in 1997.

"I would be concerned if this trend continues, but we'll see how we can rebound at home [tomorrow] against the Yankees," said Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. "That will tell a lot."

Cabrera took a 1-0 lead to the mound in the first inning, just as he had in his first two starts in Chicago and Seattle, but this time it wouldn't last. This time he was pitching against a first-place Angels team that continues to find ways to scrap for victories, despite injuries to heavy hitters Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad.

Leadoff man David Eckstein, the player who personifies the Angels' scrappiness, set the tone when he drew an eight-pitch walk to start the first inning. He fell behind in the count 1-2, but fouled off two pitches before Cabrera missed with three straight balls.

The Orioles thought the last pitch, a 92-mph fastball, was close enough to be called a strike, but umpire Jeff Nelson thought otherwise, and Cabrera looked frozen for a moment as Eckstein took his base.

Before the Angels were done that inning, they had a 3-1 lead, and Cabrera had thrown 30 pitches. He struck out Shane Halter to end the misery, then stood in the infield for a moment after losing track of the outs.

But the moment that resonated with Cabrera after the game came in the fourth inning, after the Orioles had trimmed the deficit to 3-2. With two outs, the Angels had runners on second and third, so Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli had him walk Vladimir Guerrero intentionally, loading the bases for Jose Guillen.

One pitch later, the decision backfired. Guillen turned on a 90-mph fastball, lining it down the left-field line and clearing the bases for a 6-2 lead.

"I tried to throw it inside, but I just kept the ball over the plate," Cabrera said through translator Rudy Arias. "What they did is they adjusted to me. Now I have to adjust to them. I learned from this experience."

Cabrera (2-1) gave up nine hits, and his ERA swelled from 1.42 to 4.32.

"He's young," Mazzilli said, "but when you get the bases loaded, you've got to be able to make a better pitch."

Still, when asked if Cabrera would get another start, Mazzilli said: "Oh absolutely, sure, no question. ... Sometimes when you get a setback, it's good in a way, because you can learn from that."

The Orioles had several chances to overcome the hole Cabrera dug them. They pulled within 6-3 in the fifth inning against Angels starter Aaron Sele (3-0), but their frustrations mounted as they left eight runners on base over a span of four innings.

The most deflating sequence came in the sixth, when Larry Bigbie singled and Luis Matos doubled with one out against Angels reliever Scot Shields.

Up stepped backup catcher Keith Osik, who is 0-for-14 this season with runners on base. The Orioles desperately needed a run in that situation, but Osik hit a lazy fly to left field, not nearly deep enough for Bigbie to challenge the strong arm of Angels left fielder Guillen.

Jerry Hairston grounded to second, ending the inning, and slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration.

Guerrero, who spurned the Orioles' best attempts to sign him last winter, capped a huge weekend when he hit his 10th homer of the season off Darwin Cubillan in the seventh.

The Orioles were still shaking their heads as they left for home after a road trip during which they won the first two games in Seattle before losing the series finale there and then getting swept in three games by the Angels.

This season has reached the quarter pole, and Mazzilli said the record will improve.

"I don't feel like we're a .500 club," he said, "that's for sure."

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