Cabrera controls Jays in O's win

He rules strike zone after stay in minors

Orioles 8 Blue Jays 4

August 09, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

TORONTO -- He threw strikes, spotting his fastball and his curveball with pinpoint precision. He was frequently dominating yet never wild. And yes, Daniel Cabrera could have even been described as economical last night.

His first appearance after a 3M-=-week demotion to the minor league, Cabrera was the pitcher that the Orioles hoped that he would grow into all season. He contained the Toronto Blue Jays for seven strong innings, long enough for the Orioles' offense to awake from its recent slumber.

Melvin Mora broke a seventh-inning tie with a three-run double, sending Cabrera to his first win in two months, an 8-4 victory before an announced crowd of 28,823 at the Rogers Centre last night.

"It was big." Cabrera said. "It is good to come back and come back strong. I got a win right away. It makes me feel more comfortable."

Rookie Nick Markakis tied the game with a seventh-inning single and then gave the Orioles (51-63) some insurance by cracking a three-run home run in the eighth. Miguel Tejada also connected for his 20th home run, but make no mistake, the victory was about Cabrera's transformation - for at least one night - from a fragile youngster with sporadic control into a confident pitcher, capable of commanding the strike zone.

"He looked really focused." manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He looked like he was on a mission." Cabrera (5-7) allowed one earned run and five hits, while striking out seven over seven innings. Perhaps most impressively, Cabrera, who leads the American League in walks despite spending approximately 6M-= weeks on the disabled list or in the minor leagues, walked just one last night and threw 92 pitches, his third lowest total of the season.

It probably wasn't his best outing of the season, but it was one of them, leaving the Orioles hopeful that he'll repeat the per formance rather than falling back on his wild ways.

Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh, the Orioles' rally started with Corey Patterson's one-out double off Toronto starter Shaun Marcum, who held the Orioles to just three hits over 6 2/3 innings. Toronto manager John Gibbons brought in lefty specialist Scott Schoeneweis to face Markakis with two outs, but the Orioles rookie bounced a single up the middle to tie the game at 2.

Schoeneweis (2-2) then walked Brian Roberts and Brandon Fahey, loading the bases for Mora. Gibbons brought on Justin Speier to face Mora, but that backfired as the Orioles third baseman cleared the bases by slamming a double into the left- center-field gap, giving the visitors a 5-2 lead. Markakis made it 8-2 with his fifth home run of the season in the eighth.

Cabrera's first major league pitch in about 3M-= weeks was a strike. In fact, Cabrera, using his fastball to get ahead early in counts and then his off-speed stuff to try to put Toronto hitters away, threw a first-pitch strike to seven of the first nine Blue Jays hitters he faced. He issued his first walk to Alex Rios with two outs in the second, but he rebounded to blow away Eric Hinske on three pitches.

He overmatched shortstop Aaron Hill to start the third and then finished it by getting Reed Johnson looking at a 99-mph fastball on the outside corner.

Vernon Wells got Toronto's first hit, dumping a single into right field with one out in the fourth. Troy Glaus followed with a sharply hit single to center before Rios put the Blue Jays on the board by swatting Cabrera's curveball into shallow center for an RBI hit.

The RBI, which answered Miguel Tejada's bases-empty home run (his 20th of the season) off Marcum in the top half of the inning, tied the game at 1. But Cabrera got out of further damage when Fahey made a diving catch on Hinske's tailing liner down the left-field line.

The Orioles were interested in seeing how Cabrera would react last night because he didn't exactly ease everyone's concerns in his stint with Triple-A Ottawa. Cabrera went 3-1 with a 4.07 ERA in four starts, but continued to show a sporadic command of his breaking ball.

"I don't think he was perfect with it, but I think his last out ing, he was much better." Perlozzo said before the game. "He went six shutout innings [in his last outing]. We're going to try for him to get command of the pitches that he does have and continue to improve on some other things."

Shortly after rejoining his teammates yesterday, Cabrera was summoned to Perlozzo's office. The message from the manager to the 25-year-old right-hander was to "relax. Go out and do your job and not worry about anything." said Perlozzo.

It was his sagging confidence as much as his spotty control that led to his demotion. Club officials became real concerned after a noticeably shaken Cabrera essentially told reporters after his last start on July 13 against Texas that he couldn't figure out how to turn things around.

"I tried to make a good pitch. I tried to get a ground ball. I tried to get a strikeout. It's just not happening." Cabrera said after that start. "I tried to make a pitch and nothing was working."

The following day was Cabrera returned to the minor leagues.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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