Lost for month, Cabrera finally finds groove, 8-0

Rookie pitches into seventh inning as O's top Rays for 3rd win in row

September 02, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - If Daniel Cabrera hit a wall in his rookie season, as evidenced by the severe drop-off in his performance over the past month, he seemed to bust through it last night. The Orioles hope he stays on the other side for a while.

Prone to high pitch counts and early deficits, Cabrera led from the start and reached the seventh inning for the first time in almost five weeks in an 8-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that lacked the drama usually attached to Tropicana Field.

The Orioles (60-71) didn't need 12 innings, the number it took to win the series opener. And they didn't need to expose closer Jorge Julio to his own Fear Factor - a save situation on the Devil Rays' turf.

Life was much simpler, especially with Javy Lopez contributing a season-high four RBIs, and it resulted in the Orioles' third straight win since a 12-game losing streak, and their first series win here since April 2002.

Cabrera (10-7) held the Devil Rays to two hits over 6 2/3 innings, though his sixth walk loaded the bases and forced his removal.

"He threw the ball a lot better," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He was just a little quick at times, but I like what I saw. When he stayed underneath himself, he was OK."

Mazzilli liked how the Orioles looked before they took the field, with three roster additions giving him unprecedented depth. He ushered Larry Bigbie and David Segui into the starting lineup - both coming off the disabled list - and also had catcher Geronimo Gil in reserve from Triple-A Ottawa.

Segui, used as the designated hitter, hadn't played since April 24 after undergoing more surgery on his left knee. His Orioles career likely has entered its final month.

Taking the spot on the 40-man roster that opened when Karim Garcia was released, Segui went 2-for-4 and scored a run. He struck out in the first with two runners on base and singled in the fourth and sixth.

"He's out for four months, and he gets two hits," Mazzilli said. "It's good to have that kind of bat in your lineup."

Jay Gibbons went to the bench one night after homering twice and tying his career high with four hits. He's been bothered by flu-like symptoms - at least when he's not standing in the batter's box - and Mazzilli sat him against a left-hander.

With Rafael Palmeiro and David Newhan also benched against Mark Hendrickson (8-14), the Orioles had plenty of late-inning options. None was needed.

"This gives us a little more depth," Mazzilli said.

Mazzilli used five relievers to cover the final 6 2/3 innings of Tuesday's 10-6 victory, but the Orioles declined to add any pitchers to their expanded roster yesterday. They'll bring up a few after Triple-A Ottawa and Double-A Bowie complete their seasons on Monday.

No matter who joins the staff, Mazzilli seems intent on keeping Cabrera in the rotation. And the rookie did nothing to warrant his removal after facing a lineup that's still missing Carl Crawford, the majors' leader in triples, because of a shoulder injury.

Before last night, Cabrera had only one victory in his past seven starts, and his ERA in August stood at 11.51 in 20 1/3 innings. He lasted only five innings over his past two appearances, permitting 13 runs and 12 hits. But the ball kept finding his hand when his turn came up.

"What are your alternatives?" Mazzilli said. "His velocity is there. He's been getting behind early in the count, which he wasn't doing a month ago. He's just got to get back in the zone."

As for Cabrera's confidence heading into the game, Mazzilli said, "He's OK."

It sure seemed that way. Cabrera retired nine in a row after walking Tino Martinez to open the fourth.

"His stuff was very good," Lopez said. "He was in control the first five innings. At the end he couldn't get his strike zone back, but by then we already had done enough damage."

Said Cabrera: "The big difference is they didn't hit me this time. I had better command of my fastball, breaking ball and changeup."

The Devil Rays bolted from their dugout before the first pitch, and Tropicana Field shook to its rafters. It must have been from the swirling winds outside the dome, given that the place was nearly empty. The announced crowd of 8,988 didn't reflect the bodies inside.

It was so quiet, you could almost hear Lou Piniella's cholesterol count go up. Time was called once when a fan sneezed.

If the atmosphere was bad, it matched the Devil Rays' play in the first inning. Shortstop Julio Lugo made a throwing error that allowed Brian Roberts to reach, and he later scored on a two-run single by Lopez.

B.J. Surhoff drove in another run with his fourth hit of the series - he added two more later - and Cabrera had a 3-0 lead before he stepped on the field.

"Anytime you jump out early, it's good," Mazzilli said.

Cabrera got into trouble in the third inning after being slow to cover first base with two outs, allowing Lugo to reach safely. The same lapse earned him a lecture from Mazzilli after his last start. Lugo's gift single was the last hit off Cabrera.

Orioles today

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Time: 2:15 p.m.

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

Starters: Orioles' Erik Bedard (5-9, 4.92) vs. Devil Rays' Dewon Brazelton (6-5, 3.67)

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