Chalk up a balk for Cabrera, loss for O's

Pitcher's mistake in fifth inning proves costly as Blue Jays win, 3-2

`It was obvious to all of us,' Mazzilli says

June 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- It can be a slight twitch or a subtle gesture that's almost imperceptible to the naked eye. A pitcher moves his glove a fraction of an inch, turns his shoulders, bends a knee, does something that the plate umpire rules an attempt to deceive the base runner. The Orioles are regular offenders, and it's becoming costly.

Starter Daniel Cabrera committed a balk in the fifth inning last night with the bases loaded and two outs, rocking forward slightly and allowing Russ Adams to score the tiebreaking run in the Toronto Blue Jays' 3-2 victory at Rogers Centre. Nobody argued, and a game continued, a lead never changing.

"He moved," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "All four umpires saw it at the same time. It was obvious to all of us."

Rafael Palmeiro hit his 561st career home run in the fourth inning, but the Blue Jays scored twice in the fifth against Cabrera (5-7), and Toronto's bullpen covered the last 3 2/3 innings.

Reliever Justin Speier hit Luis Matos to begin the eighth, but the Orioles' center fielder was thrown out at second with Miguel Tejada at the plate. Mazzilli disputed that call but to no avail.

Tejada followed with a double but was stranded, and the Orioles (42-29) once again failed to move a season-high 15 games above .500. They're only one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Orioles' lead hasn't been that low since May 14.

The Orioles lead the majors with seven balks, two coming in this series. They lost a game in May when Steve Kline was deemed guilty on a questionable call in the eighth inning.

"Some of them are blatant, some are not," Mazzilli said. "I don't think it's a trend. I think in certain situations, they [umpires] just bear down more."

The Orioles made one roster move yesterday, but it didn't involve injured third baseman Melvin Mora. They put outfielder B.J. Surhoff on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his rib cage and recalled David Newhan from Triple-A Ottawa.

The change didn't prevent the Orioles from playing short-handed, a situation that should continue through tonight and into this weekend's interleague series against the Atlanta Braves.

Mora is regarded as day-to-day after straining his right hamstring while running out a ground ball Tuesday night. His consecutive-games streak ended at 144, dating to July 18, 2004.

"We'll wait a couple days and see how it reacts," head trainer Richie Bancells said. "It feels about the same, maybe a hair better, but it's hard to tell right now."

The Orioles were relieved to learn that Mora suffered only a Grade 1 strain.

"It's a mild situation," Bancells said. "It's not a tear or a rupture or anything like that."

It's also not the same type of strain that forced Larry Bigbie onto the disabled list in late May.

"That's a different muscle, different area, different structure," Bancells said.

The Orioles' mood seemed different, too, compared to Tuesday night. They weren't as morose yesterday, knowing Mora could avoid the disabled list, hoping for the best instead of obsessing over the worst-case scenario.

"It feels better," he said. "They're telling me to take three days to rest and see how it feels. But it's better today.

"It won't be too long. That's how I feel. Before I was like, it was scary. But I can walk straight now."

Mazzilli can breathe normally.

"Initially you think the worst with what you saw happen, but today he feels better," Mazzilli said. "And I think emotionally, he's better than what he was."

Mora could miss the entire Atlanta series, leaving the Orioles with no designated hitter and a thinner bench.

"I couldn't even tell you. I want to see how it is tomorrow, see how he progresses," Mazzilli said.

"Lets say I don't use him for the next four or five days. You've got to make sure he's OK because if you use him and you lose him, then you lose five or six days on the DL, as well. You've got to be sure the next time he goes out there."

Chris Gomez should get most of the starts at third base, as he did last night against Blue Jays right-hander Pete Walker.

Walker (3-0) was making his first start after 16 relief appearances. He hadn't gone more than 3 2/3 innings this season, and departed last night after 5 1/3 .

Palmeiro took him deep with one out in the fourth, the ball traveling an estimated 413 feet to right-center field.

Cabrera threw 100 pitches in five innings. It's the one he didn't release that caused the most trouble.

"I knew it was going to be called," he said of the balk. "It's just part of the game. I moved, and I didn't throw the ball."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site, time: Rogers Centre, Toronto, 7:07

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

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-4, 5.13) vs. Blue Jays' Roy Halladay (10-4, 2.53)

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