Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cabrera, O's Take Tough-Luck Loss

ANAHEIM -- Even in a loss, the contrast is clear. Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera continued his consistent streak of pitching in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Angels and achieved a few milestones in the process. Cabrera has thrown five straight quality starts for the first time in his career and has worked six innings or more in six straight outings.

The right-hander had only done that once in his career and finally seems to have momentum on his side. Cabrera (2-1) walked the first batter he faced on Saturday, but then he proceeded to retire nine straight Angels. Los Angeles didn't break through until the sixth inning, and Cabrera managed to strand two runners in scoring position in the seventh.

"I hope people stop asking me if he's improved and all that," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I think the answer to that has been clearly shown. Let's just hope that he continues to go forward and we don't look back anymore.

"This is probably the most consistent that he's been in his career."

"Every time he goes out, he wants to go deep in the game," added catcher Ramon Hernandez. "He's not the same guy that always gets hit, then starts getting mad and starts throwing at people. ... He's a grown man. He definitely knows that he's got to go deep in the game, and he's got the ability to go deep in the game and keep the games close."

Cabrera allowed a window into his world after the game, when he spent a half-hour working out in the gym and brought a pair of dumbbells into the clubhouse for some extra lunge stretches. When that was done, he stood at his locker and answered a few questions with the implication that pitching well and losing isn't good enough for him or his team.

"I have to be upset. I lost. The team lost," he said after a barrage of one-word responses. "I've been working hard from Spring Training. I think that's what I can give. If I'm not working hard, I'm not going to get good results."

"After every start," said Hernandez, "you see him working out in the gym, trying to get ready for the next one. ... I respect that a lot. That shows me a lot. He's ready to come and pitch. He's not going to be a thrower. He's going to be a pitcher."

Hernandez went on to say that Cabrera is harnessing his two-seam fastball and seems to realize that it's his best pitch. According to Hernandez, the two-seam has worked much better than the four-seam in setting up his offspeed stuff.

On Saturday, though, it didn't really matter because Cabrera's counterpart pitched about as good as he could. Jon Garland gave up a run-scoring single in the second inning, but then he retired 13 straight Orioles. Melvin Mora broke that streak with a one-out double in the seventh, but Garland (4-3) escaped on a grounder and an easy fly ball.

The right-hander worked through the eighth inning and retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced, and closer Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his 12th save of the season. Los Angeles (19-13) wound up facing just two batters over the minimum, and Baltimore (16-14) fell to 8-3 in one-run games and 3-11 when scoring three runs or less.

"The way Garland was pitching, it looked like our best hope was to win the game, 1-0," said Trembley. "He looked good the first time around the lineup. You can tell that he had good stuff. ... He was pretty much on his game today."

"He hit his spots today. Period," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "He threw a good game. Cabrera threw a good game. It was a good baseball game. Both guys were pounding the strike zone. It was a good game. We just lost."

The Angels scored two of their three runs in the sixth inning, courtesy of a rare stumble by Cabrera. The 27-year-old hit one batter and walked another with one out, setting the stage for a free rally. Los Angeles responded with a one-run single from designated hitter Reggie Willits and a go-ahead sacrifice fly by right fielder Gary Matthews.

"Last night and tonight, walks factored into them scoring runs," Trembley said. "You have to keep [Chone] Figgins off. He's the catalyst that makes it go for them. We needed a two-out hit and the balls we did hit hard, they caught."

The home team scored again and chased Cabrera with just two outs to go in the eighth inning, helping him fall just shy of Baltimore's first complete game this season. Now, he'll go back to the drawing board and prepare for his next start.

"I'm just going game-by-game and trying to do the best I can," Cabrera said. "I've got to wait until the season's over. That's when I can be happy with this. The only thing I can do now is keep working, and then we'll see after the season."

"I think we're trying pretty hard," said Hernandez. "We're losing, but we're not giving up, and we're keeping the games close. That's the only thing you can ask from the pitcher, keep the game close."


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