Cabrera settles down to beat Mariners, 5-3

Palmeiro gets one hit, just shy of milestone

Baseball

July 15, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Rafael Palmeiro couldn't quite catch up to three Hall of Fame players last night, a failure that meant little to him as the Orioles moved closer to first place. That's the only chase that truly inspires him at the moment.

Daniel Cabrera held the Seattle Mariners hitless after the second inning, and Larry Bigbie's sacrifice fly in the sixth gave the Orioles their first lead and enabled them to kick off the second half with a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners before 36,316 at Safeco Field.

Palmeiro was attempting to become only the fourth player with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. It made for good drama, no matter how it ended.

A single in the fourth inning brought Palmeiro within one hit of 3,000 and started a rally that eventually tied the game after the Mariners took a three-run lead, but he finished 1-for-3 with a walk. He stood on the on-deck circle as the last out was made in the ninth.

"It's going to happen eventually. If it's not tomorrow, it's the next day or the next," he said.

Palmeiro lined a 1-0 pitch from Aaron Sele into right field, bringing him a little closer to history. The ball remained in play when Jay Gibbons slammed it off the facing of the second deck for his 14th homer, reducing Seattle's lead to 3-2.

Catcher Sal Fasano led off the fifth inning with his seventh home run, and Bigbie gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead with a fly ball in the sixth that scored Gibbons.

Both of Seattle's hits and all of its runs came in the second inning, as the Orioles (48-40) moved within a game of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Cabrera won his third straight start, retiring 19 of the last 20 batters he faced through the eighth, but that's not what captured everyone's attention.

Light applause greeted Palmeiro's initial at-bat in the second inning. He grounded to first baseman Richie Sexson, who flipped the ball to Sele covering the bag. The same combination sent Palmeiro to the dugout in the sixth, still one hit shy of joining an exclusive club.

The matchup favored Palmeiro, a career .314 hitter with 12 RBIs in 70 at-bats against Sele before last night. But he'll need at least one more game to reach his milestone.

"You, me, 30,000 people were all pulling for him," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You know it's going to come. You just don't know what inning."

Players leaned on the railing on the top step of the visitor's dugout as Palmeiro batted in the sixth and camera bulbs flashed in the stands. They struck the same pose in the eighth when he walked against reliever Julio Mateo, who was booed by the home crowd.

"They want to see it, but I was a little surprised they were booing their guys," Palmeiro said. "But that's not going to happen after I get it done."

As one future Hall of Famer chased history, another one crept up on the leadoff hitter.

Sammy Sosa batted second for the first time since May 23, 1993, with the Chicago Cubs. Mazzilli wanted better protection for Sosa, with Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada batting behind him, and thought a change of scenery might do him good.

His average down to .225 before last night, Sosa went 0-for-4 with a sacrifice fly in the ninth that shattered his bat but produced his 28th RBI.

He flied to the fence in right field in the first and struck out with the count full in the third to strand two runners. He also struck out in the fifth and seventh, slamming his helmet to the ground in frustration after swinging through a 94-mph fastball from Mateo.

Sosa became infuriated with Cubs manager Dusty Baker for moving him down the order last season, but he's accepted each of Mazzillli's changes without complaint.

"We are here to win," Sosa said, "and whatever sacrifice there is, I will do it."

Winning became more problematic for the Orioles after the second inning. They committed two errors, and Cabrera (8-7) hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, as the Mariners took a 3-0 lead.

Adrian Beltre singled with one out and Cabrera nailed Jeremy Reed to stir up trouble. Willie Bloomquist sent a broken-bat single into right field to score Beltre, and Reed came home when Gibbons' throw bounced past Mora at third base.

With Jose Lopez batting, Cabrera unleashed a fastball that sailed past Fasano's mitt. Cabrera eventually got the last two outs, and a lot more, by using a new delivery created by pitching coach Ray Miller.

Eleven straight batters went down after Tejada's error, giving the Orioles a chance to rally. Closer B.J. Ryan struck out the side in the ninth for his 20th save.

"One inning he was rattled around a little," Mazzilli said of Cabrera, "but after that he was lights out."

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