Twins burst Cabrera balloon

O's sterling rookie allows all runs in 8-4 defeat as 7-0 streak stops with thud

O's home record drops 21-28

July 26, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Sure, the Orioles were spoiled.

They were so used to seeing Daniel Cabrera pitch like a 10-year veteran, they had a hard time masking their disappointment yesterday when he finally pitched like a rookie again.

Cabrera turned in his worst major league performance, as the Minnesota Twins pounded him for eight runs in five-plus innings and held on for an 8-4 victory before 41,833 at Camden Yards.

"You forget how young he is," said Ray Miller, who had seen nothing but good things from Cabrera, 23, since he took over as the Orioles' pitching coach June 26. "They have a little bit of success, and you forget how little experience they have."

The Orioles had gone 7-0 in Cabrera's seven previous starts, so naturally, they expected better in the rubber match of this three-game series.

But the Twins left town after taking two of three, extending another disturbing streak. The Orioles haven't won a home series since they swept three games from Cleveland from May 7 to 9. Since then, they have lost eight series and split two others, leaving them with the worst home record in the American League at 21-28.

"We need to find a way to turn that around," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.

This one was winnable if Cabrera (8-4) had only been on his game.

But several factors conspired against him. Miller pointed to Cabrera's schedule being jostled before his starts on either side of the All-Star break. The team thrust him into early duty both times, and he beat Kansas City and Tampa Bay, but it started catching up to him.

Last Tuesday, he beat Kansas City again, but it was a five-inning struggle.

Yesterday, he didn't have it from the start, as the Twins jumped on him for two runs in the first inning and four in the second. Six of the eight runs scored off Cabrera came with two outs.

The pivotal moment came after the Twins had stretched their lead to 3-0 with two outs in the second on an RBI single by Lew Ford.

Miller, who had made a mound visit in the first inning, went back again with Twins upstart Justin Morneau coming up.

Cabrera had already given up more runs than he had in any start since June 15, but Miller knew the Orioles were bound to score some runs against Twins starter Kyle Lohse.

Coming into the game, Lohse (4-7) had won three games this season, all against Kansas City.

So Miller offered his encouragement, and Cabrera nodded his head before staring in at Morneau. It was a battle of promising 23-year-olds. Morneau, who has bounced up and down from Triple-A Rochester this season, had already hit four home runs in 16 major league games.

Halfway through the at-bat, Cabrera got Morneau to chase a wicked curveball in the dirt for strike two, but he couldn't finish him. Morneau fouled off the next pitch, and then Cabrera tried another curve.

This time, the pitch stayed pancake flat, and Morneau crushed it an estimated 395 feet over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. It was the 35th home run to land on Eutaw Street since Camden Yards opened in 1992.

"That's a bad day," Cabrera said. "Everybody's got a bad day. That's mine today."

The Orioles trimmed the lead to 6-3 in the fourth and 7-4 in the fifth before Melvin Mora got thrown out at home plate to end that inning. Cabrera gave up another home run to Michael Cuddyer to start the sixth, stretching Minnesota's lead back to four, and that's when manager Lee Mazzilli went to his bullpen.

The eight earned runs and 11 hits off Cabrera were both season highs.

"I wasn't really concerned about the hits today as much as I was the fundamentals - covering bases and that stuff," Miller said. "They need a lot of work on that stuff. They're coming out [today], and we're going back to the basic 101, how to throw to bases, pitchouts and stuff."

It bothered Miller and Mazzilli that Cabrera let Nick Punto have a huge jump and steal second base without even drawing a throw from the catcher in the first inning. And it bothered them even more when they called for a pitchout and Torii Hunter still stole second base with a huge jump in the fifth.

Those are fundamentals on which Cabrera must improve, but Mazzilli still likes his poise.

"He's not a guy who really starts throwing things all over the place," Mazzilli said. "That's why he's been so successful for a young kid."

Cabrera's next start comes Friday at Yankee Stadium, and Miller expects better.

"I'll get him all pumped up, and he'll be OK," Miller said. "One thing about him, he doesn't carry stuff with him very long. He'll be all right."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Pedro Martinez (10-4, 4.01) vs. Orioles' Erik Bedard (4-4, 4.04)

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