A lost weekend for O's

Slam helps Red Sox beat Cabrera, sweep Orioles for third time in '06

Red Sox 11 Orioles 9

August 14, 2006|By DAVID SELIG | DAVID SELIG,SUN REPORTER

BOSTON -- About two hours before yesterday's game, Daniel Cabrera slumped his 6-foot-7 frame onto a couch in the Fenway Park visiting clubhouse, hardly touching the tray of food before him and barely talking to any of his surrounding teammates.

Sam Perlozzo said he has found Cabrera to be much quieter since he returned Tuesday from 3 1/2 weeks with Triple-A Ottawa, and the Orioles manager chalked that up to the 25-year-old right-hander's increasing his focus.

But when he took the mound with a one-run lead in the bottom of the first inning, Cabrera looked very similar to the pitcher who has struggled to find consistency all season and came into the afternoon with a 9.26 career ERA against the Boston Red Sox.

The result also turned out to be familiar. Cabrera allowed seven runs and five walks in four innings, as the Red Sox won, 11-9, to sweep the Orioles for the third time in four series this season.

"I thought he was a little tentative," Perlozzo said of his starter. "I don't think his velocity ever reached up to what it normally was, and I think he was feeling for the strike zone a little bit. Just because you're a little tentative trying to throw the ball over the plate, you kind of aim it and sacrifice your stuff a little bit."

If Cabrera (5-8) had a significant attitude adjustment in Ottawa, it was difficult to see initially. He glared at Coco Crisp after his first pitch of the game when Crisp attempted a bunt.

Cabrera got Crisp to fly out, but his focus would waver. Boston loaded the bases with two walks and Kevin Youkilis' double, setting up Mike Lowell's grand slam on a 3-1 fastball left up in the zone.

It took just 20 pitches for Cabrera to get through the next two innings, as his offense battled back to tie, but he again got sidetracked in the fourth. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Cabrera failed to get off the mound to field Alex Cora's bunt, turning a would-be sacrifice into a single, one of five hits yielded by Cabrera.

After Gabe Kapler grounded out to drive in the go-ahead run, Cabrera sailed his 14th wild pitch of the season over catcher Ramon Hernandez's mitt to score another. Crisp singled home Cora to give the Red Sox a 7-4 lead they wouldn't relinquish despite sixth-inning bases-empty home runs from Kevin Millar and Brian Roberts.

"I'm trying to focus on doing all the little things, being more focused on the game and trying to learn something every day," Cabrera said of his new approach. "The most important thing is that I didn't get ahead [in the count]. When it's 2-0, you've got to come with a pitch that's right down the middle, and that was the biggest problem today."

It may take a few more starts to see whether Cabrera's demotion - which Perlozzo said was intended to improve his confidence, not serve as a "wake-up call" - will pay off.

"It's only been two starts and one was great and the other was [poor]," Hernandez said. "You've got to see more to see how he is. Some days you try too hard, and some days you relax more. You've got to know your own body."

Rookie Red Sox starter Jon Lester, 22, wasn't much more composed than his counterpart, allowing four runs on nine hits in five innings to improve to 6-2. Miguel Tejada drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly, and the Orioles tied the score at 4 in the second inning with Corey Patterson's two-run home run and an RBI single from Melvin Mora.

The Red Sox tacked on what turned out to be some valuable insurance when Youkilis ripped a three-run homer to center field off Todd Williams in the seventh inning and Doug Mirabelli hit his second homer of the series to the same part of the park in the eighth off Bruce Chen.

The Orioles (51-67) brought up the tying run in the eighth and the go-ahead run in the ninth, but Boston improved to 11-1 against the Orioles this season when Lowell made a backhanded stab on a hard grounder down the third base line by Mora, ending the game.

In a series in which the Red Sox trotted out the three least reliable starters in their rotation, it was the Orioles' pitching that gave up a total of 28 runs. And it was, for the third straight day, the cramped visiting clubhouse that remained quiet at the end of the day with Boston's fiery closer Jonathan Papelbon celebrating his 31st save with hugs for his teammates.

"This might be the curse," said Millar, his Red Sox championship ring glistening from his right hand. "We score 10, they score 11. We score two, they score three. We've just had trouble getting wins against them, and it's a little frustrating."

david.selig@baltsun.com

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