Cabrera encourages O's, even in 2-1 defeat to Yanks

Brown out-duels rookie, who passes 2nd Bronx test

July 31, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - On the eve of baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie sat in the team's dugout at Yankee Stadium yesterday with an unapologetic look on his face.

The chances of the Orioles making a move by today's 4 p.m. deadline are "very slight," Beattie said. And to understand why that wasn't bothering him so much, you had to see what happened last night in the Bronx.

It wasn't spectacular. It wasn't even a win.

But rookie pitcher Daniel Cabrera did enough to reinforce the Orioles' methods, as the New York Yankees squeaked out a 2-1 victory before a boisterous crowd of 51,551.

A lot of names were flying around yesterday, as teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets made moves to beat the deadline, with more trades likely to come today.

Somewhere in that pile, a team might be giving up on a pitcher like Cabrera.

The Orioles weren't even all that high on him at this time last year. But they're sure glad they never gave up on him. Even in defeat last night, he turned in another performance that left them excited about his future.

Cabrera (8-5) held the Yankees to two runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings.

"That," Cabrera said, "is one of the best games I've maybe had in my life."

He knew he was overlooking other gems this season, such as his four-hit shutout over the Atlanta Braves on June 25. But this one meant more because it came against the Yankees.

B.J. Surhoff hit a home run to give Cabrera a third-inning lead, but Alex Rodriguez tied it with a leadoff home run in the fourth. Then, in a memorable eight-pitch battle for Cabrera, Rodriguez put the Yankees ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

Kevin Brown (8-1) returned from the disabled list and flashed his early-season form, holding the Orioles to one run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings.

The vaunted Yankees bullpen did the rest, as Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera closed out New York's ninth victory over the Orioles in 11 tries this season.

Miguel Tejada typified the plight of the Orioles' hitters, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a double-play grounder.

"You never feel good about a loss," said manager Lee Mazzilli. "But there was just nothing you could do. It was a well-pitched game all the way around."

Rookie pitchers have been known to tremble at the thought of pitching at Yankee Stadium. Not Cabrera.

In his first start here, on June 3, he locked up in a duel with Javier Vazquez and left with the score tied at 2 after the sixth. The Orioles went on to lose that game 5-2, but Cabrera had left his mark.

This week, he scoffed at letting the Yankee Stadium mystique intimidate him. "It's the same distance from the mound to home plate," he said.

Cabrera didn't allow a hit last night until Derek Jeter singled with two outs in the third inning, but Rodriguez led off the fourth with his 26th home run, smashing a high fastball over the left-field fence.

Things really got sticky for Cabrera in the fifth. With one out, the top of the Yankees' order - Kenny Lofton, Jeter and Gary Sheffield - strung together three consecutive singles to load the bases for Rodriguez.

Sheffield blistered a potential double-play ball toward third baseman Melvin Mora, but the ball took a wicked hop off Mora's chest and bounced away.

"It's something I don't expect on this field," Mora said. "This is the best field I've played on."

Next came Rodriguez. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, he hit a ball that hooked just foul down the left-field line, missing a grand slam by mere feet.

Still Cabrera wasn't rattled.

Rodriguez lined the next pitch to left field, and Surhoff made the catch from the knees. Lofton scored the go-ahead run on the sacrifice fly, and Cabrera escaped further damage when Jorge Posada popped out.

"You're one bad hop away from getting out of it," Mazzilli said.

Cabrera lowered his ERA to 3.60, and with 100 innings pitched this season, he is just short of qualifying for the American League leaderboard, where he would rank sixth.

Either way, he's strengthening his Rookie of the Year campaign. And Mazzilli said he isn't the least bit concerned that Cabrera is actually riding a two-game losing streak.

"I don't really think you've got to worry about that kid," Mazzilli said. "He's got a pretty good temperament, the way he goes about it."

Orioles today

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium

Time: 1:20 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Erik Bedard (4-5, 4.42) vs. Yankees' Javier Vazquez (11-6, 4.06)

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