O's bats leave quietly

Lack of hitting costs O's, Cabrera as Toronto finale extends skid

Blue Jays 4 Orioles 2

June 16, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

TORONTO -- The Orioles' starting pitching problems have been well documented, but as third baseman Melvin Mora surveyed a somber clubhouse after more missed opportunities resulted in another Orioles loss yesterday, he had a different view on what ails his team.

"We need to start hitting," Mora said. "It's swinging the bat. It's not about pitching. If we score runs early, these guys are going to be able to win the game. [Daniel] Cabrera threw another outstanding game. We're just not able to score too many runs."

In a third straight defeat, a 4-2 setback to the Toronto Blue Jays before 32,285 at the Rogers Centre, the Orioles left nine runners on base, including five in scoring position, ruining a solid outing from the resurgent Cabrera.

The Orioles (30-38) know that they are simply not good enough to afford such luxuries, especially not against the top teams in the American League East. The Orioles are 8-20 this season against the Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

They left Canada last evening and headed to New York, 2-5 on their current road trip and losers of 20 of their past 27 road games. And there is no relief in sight as they face a three-game series with the Mets, who have won eight in a row and have the most wins in the National League.

"We can't worry about what happened today," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "This club has been good all year. Every time you think it could go the other way, they seem to be able to rebound after some tough losses. We'll see if that comes into play again."

Perlozzo was unable to completely hide his frustrations, nor was Mora, normally a loquacious talker who spoke in a hushed tone, and blamed some of the Orioles' struggles on himself. Mora is in a 3-for-22 slump and hasn't hit a homer since May 24, a 21-game drought. With the Orioles a season-low eight games under .500, the All-Star third baseman said he and everyone else are simply trying too hard.

"We need to do things one at a time, concentrate pitch-by-pitch. Every at-bat is important," Mora said. "I am putting a lot of pressure on myself. I need to relax. I think we're going to be fine, but we need to score some runs."

Blue Jays left-hander Ted Lilly didn't allow a run and struck out eight over six innings, but he still gave the Orioles plenty of chances, courtesy of four walks.

Kevin Millar was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Javy Lopez's double in the fourth. Brian Roberts struck out with a man on third and one out in the fifth, and Miguel Tejada was punched out looking with the bases loaded later that inning.

Down 3-0 in the seventh, the Orioles got their only runs on Roberts' RBI single and Tejada's sacrifice fly. An inning later, they had a chance to tie the game, but Corey Patterson flied out to center after Jeff Conine had tripled with two outs. B.J Ryan came on in the ninth to record his 17th save and fifth against his old team this season.

"We had some of our guys up there that are capable of doing it, we just didn't come through," Perlozzo said. "We have to get what is given to us and we weren't able to do it today."

Even in defeat, the Orioles spoke glowingly about Cabrera, who went six innings and allowed five hits and three runs. Cabrera (4-3) struck out six and walked three (one intentionally) and has given up only three earned runs in 17 innings since returning from the disabled list.

Cabrera said his stay on the disabled list for shoulder inflammation allowed him to relax.

"I came back strong and right now, everything is working fine. I am going to try to keep it up like that," Cabrera said. "Everything was working. My breaking [stuff] was for strikes, fastball out, fastball inside."

He was punished on just a couple of mistakes, a hanging slider that Eric Hinske deposited in the right-field bleachers in the second inning and a high fastball that Shea Hillenbrand ripped for a two-run single in the sixth.

Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez said that it appears that Cabrera, who leads the league with 53 walks, has gotten his control back, calling the performance of the young pitcher "outstanding."

"If he keeps it going like this, he's going to be pretty tough to beat, I'll tell you that," Hernandez said. "It's too early to say that he's going to be the best, but he is really a hard worker. As long as things are like that, you've always got a chance."

Cabrera will need a little run support, too.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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