Familiar scene

Red Sox continue dominance of D. Cabrera

Red Sox 7 Orioles 2

August 20, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

Even after four big league seasons, it remains almost impossible to predict which Daniel Cabrera the Orioles are going to get every fifth day. His performance fluctuates so radically from inning to inning, never mind from outing to outing, that it is foolish to even forecast a start by Cabrera.

There is one exception. When Cabrera faces the Boston Red Sox, it is a safe assumption that the Orioles are in for a very long night. Such was the case last night when Cabrera was hammered for six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings in the Red Sox's 7-2 victory before an announced 48,515, the largest crowd at Camden Yards this season.

Cabrera, who allowed nine hits and walked three, fell to 2-11 with a 7.13 ERA in 16 career starts against Boston. In 77 innings against the Red Sox over his career, Cabrera has surrendered 61 earned runs, 97 hits and 58 walks.

"I don't know if it's so much Cabrera as it is the philosophy that teams like the Red Sox have," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "They have a distinct approach. They work the count. They're not afraid to get deep into the count, and they're not reluctant to hit with two strikes."

Cabrera's performance was especially disappointing considering it came on a day when the Orioles (60-65) put closer George Sherrill on the disabled list, further depleting their beleaguered bullpen and hampering their chances of finishing above .500 for the first time in 11 seasons.

The Orioles, who will try to avoid a three-game sweep tonight, have won just five of 14 games against Boston this season, with many of the losses of the lopsided variety like last night, when the momentum changed completely in the middle innings.

Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out against an erratic Daisuke Matsuzaka and were one hit from taking the lead and potentially knocking the Red Sox starter out of the game. However, Matsuzaka got Melvin Mora, the American League's leading hitter since the All-Star break, to flail through a 3-2 slider out of the strike zone. Aubrey Huff then popped out, leaving hitters 0-for-14 this season against Matsuzaka with the bases loaded.

"You got to tip your cap to their pitchers," Orioles center fielder Jay Payton said. "The way guys have been swinging the bats, especially our top four hitters, to come in here and shut us down the way they have over the last two days has been impressive."

Matsuzaka got through one more inning and put himself in position for his 15th win despite allowing 11 Orioles to reach base over five innings. Cabrera, meanwhile, was able to get only one out in the fifth.

He allowed a leadoff double to Dustin Pedroia and then watched Kevin Youkilis drive his 1-1 hanging curveball 425 feet to left-center-field for a homer, which extended Boston's lead to 5-2. Cabrera allowed the next two Red Sox to reach before he was removed from the game.

"My mechanics were really bad for the first two innings," he said. "They started getting better after the third, but still no good."

The performance left Cabrera's ERA at 4.98, the highest it has been since April 18, after his fourth start of the season. Since the All-Star break, he has a 7.34 ERA and has allowed six earned runs or more in four of seven starts.

Perhaps most concerning last night was that Cabrera's velocity was down significantly for much of his outing. Cabrera hit 94 mph a couple of times, but his fastball mostly hovered at 90-91 mph. It also had little movement as the right-hander was up in the strike zone all night.

"I don't know about that. I don't look at the radar gun," Cabrera said. " I just go up there and try to make a pitch. It's not about velocity. It's about making a pitch. When you make a good pitch and hit your location, you can be good. If you don't, it's going to happen like it happened tonight."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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