No matter how Game 1 of yesterday's day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox played out, Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera's season was already a success.
Not projected to have an impact on the Orioles' rotation in the near future, Cabrera wound up winning 12 games for the club after arriving from Double-A Bowie in May.
Starring a pitcher that had never pitched above Single-A before this season, it was a well-crafted Cinderella story, and a bad ending won't ruin it.
The Red Sox tagged Cabrera for six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season, and then survived a late rally to post a 7-5 victory in Game 1 before a sellout crowd of 48,540 at Camden Yards.
In Game 2, Boston rallied for three in the sixth off starter Sidney Ponson and three more in the seventh off the Orioles bullpen for another 7-5 victory before 47,320, gaining a sweep.
An Orioles rally ended as Miguel Tejada grounded out with men on second and third to end the game, keeping his RBI total at 149. And Red Sox Nation celebrated.
"It [ticks] me off," said Ponson, who pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs and getting a no-decision. "Boston comes down here and kicks our [butts] and the whole stadium is cheering. It's sad, but it's one of those things you have to deal with. It's amazing how Boston fans can get 30,000 tickets."
One day after seeing their quest to finish .500 come to an abrupt halt, another disappointing day for the Orioles (77-84) started with Cabrera, who fell to 12-8.
With their top run producers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz out of the lineup, the Red Sox (98-63) pushed across six runs in the second inning on five hits, two walks and a wild pitch from the Orioles rookie. Cabrera was lifted with one out in the second after giving up a two-run single to Johnny Damon that made it 6-0.
Manager Lee Mazzilli acknowledged that the 23-year-old right-hander, who has now thrown a total of 175 innings this season -- 50 more than he did last year for Single-A Delmarva -- is probably tired.
"He's thrown a lot of innings, more than any previous year," said Mazzilli. "But he's come a long way in a short time."
Cabrera felt that he had made some good pitches yesterday, but "their guys hit them." Still, he said he'll leave the clubhouse after today's season finale satisfied with his season. And he already knows what he has to do to become a better pitcher next spring.
Cabrera will attempt to hook up with Boston ace Pedro Martinez in the offseason and develop a changeup.
"I talked to him," said Cabrera. "He said I've got a good fastball. `I'm going to teach you a changeup.'"
After Cabrera's early exit, the Orioles cut the Red Sox lead to 7-5 in the eighth inning when Tejada stroked his 34th home run, tying Cal Ripken's single-season home run record for a shortstop.
But in the ninth, Keith Foulke got out of a first-and-third jam with no outs by striking out Jay Gibbons, Larry Bigbie and Brian Roberts for his 32nd save.
In Game 2, the Orioles scored four runs in the first off Boston starter Pedro Astacio, three delivered on Javy Lopez's 23rd homer of the season and the second of the doubleheader.
Ponson left with the Orioles leading 5-4, but he ended his 11-15 season with a no-decision as Doug Mientkiewicz put Boston ahead for good on a two-run triple off Buddy Groom in the seventh.
"Damn right, it's disappointing," said Mazzilli. "I don't like losing."
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 1:35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Red Sox's Derek Lowe (14-12, 5.43) vs. Orioles' Rick Bauer (2-1, 4.71)