O's, Cabrera breeze by Royals, 13-4

Ugly 8-19 month concludes on up note

rookie stars as O's score 9 in 1st 3 innings

July 01, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - OK, so it came against the worst team in the American League. So it came against the starting pitcher with the highest earned-run average in the majors.

Considering the month the Orioles just had, they weren't going to quibble.

They bid good riddance to their worst month since September 2002 last night by pounding the Kansas City Royals, 13-4, at Kauffman Stadium.

The Orioles capitalized on three Kansas City errors and pounded Royals starter Brian Anderson for eight of their nine runs in the first three innings.

That was more than enough for rookie Daniel Cabrera (5-3), who carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning and turned in yet another impressive start.

The Orioles still finished with the worst record in the majors for June, at 8-19, but this game offered several positives that they hope to carry into July, August and September.

"I've seen a lot of progress, especially in the last week," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "I feel very good about the direction we're going."

OK, so it wasn't $22.5 million right-hander Sidney Ponson playing the role as the team's most reliable starting pitcher. Cabrera, who made the jump from Double-A Bowie earlier this season, held the Royals to three runs (two earned) on three hits over seven innings.

The Orioles finally rewarded Cabrera by scoring some runs.

He posted a 2.88 ERA in his previous five starts but had just one win to show for it. The Orioles scored just 12 runs in those five games combined. This time, they had 11 runs by the fifth inning.

Cabrera said he kept pitching as if "the game was 0-0." Ken Harvey broke up his no-hit bid with a single to start Kansas City's fifth, and Cabrera started getting wild that inning, hitting one batter and forcing home two runs with walks.

He finished with five walks for the game, but still turned in his sixth quality start in 10 tries this season.

"The kid is throwing well every time he takes the mound," Mazzilli said.

And Cabrera wasn't the only character playing an improbable role.

OK, so it wasn't Jay Gibbons delivering the three-run homer that put the game out of reach. Gibbons, who has hit six homers this season, went back on the disabled list with a torn hip flexor muscle on Tuesday, and his replacement in right field, Chad Mottola, was playing in his first big league game since 2001.

But Mottola crushed a three-run homer off Anderson that increased the Orioles' lead to 8-0 in the third inning.

For Mottola, 32, it was his first big league home run in eight years.

"It feels like about 20 [years]," said Mottola, who was taken one pick ahead of Derek Jeter in the first round of the 1992 draft. Asked if he remembered his last major league homer, Mottola said, "Yeah, I hit it off Fernando Valenzuela. That'll tell you how long it's been."

This one made it look like Mottola was a seasoned power hitter. Kansas City has a promotion that awards a Dodge truck to one lucky fan if any Royals player hits a ball into a white truck perched high above the left-field wall.

Mottola's blast traveled an estimated 419 feet, and it landed just about 15 feet beneath that truck.

"That's not something I expect to ever do," Mottola said.

By then, Royals manager Tony Pena had seen enough of Anderson, who was charged with eight runs (five earned) on five hits in two-plus innings, raising his ERA to 7.16 - the highest of any pitcher in baseball with enough innings to qualify for the lead.

OK, so this loss dropped the Royals to an AL worst 29-46.

The Orioles, who went 4-24 in September 2002, saw Melvin Mora return to the lineup for just the second time in 12 games and go 2-for-4 with a double and one run scored. Mora's .357 average still ranks second in the league.

They saw Miguel Tejada extend his hitting streak to a season-high 15 games when he slugged his 13th home run, a two-run shot off Anderson in the first inning.

They saw catcher Javy Lopez go 4-for-4 with a walk and one RBI.

And they saw their power-hitting first baseman drill a two-run homer an estimated 412 feet over the right-field wall in the fifth inning. OK, so it wasn't Rafael Palmeiro, who was sitting on the bench riding a .157 slump over his past 19 games.

David Newhan replaced Palmeiro at first base and continued his remarkable resurgence. After spending the first part of the season stuck in Triple-A with the Texas Rangers, Newhan signed on with the Orioles.

Like Mottola, Newhan hadn't been in the big leagues since 2001, but he has hit in his first 12 games as an Oriole, batting .442 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

"The kid's impressive," Mazzilli said.

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