Thursday, May 15, 2008

Payton's Grand Slam Leads O's Past Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- He even takes curtain calls.

Daniel Cabrera saw a quality start turn into a victory Wednesday, when he trailed for most of the game and was redeemed by a late grand slam by Jay Payton. With the crowd cheering loudly and demanding a curtain call -- and with Payton unwilling to indulge them -- Cabrera came out and tipped his cap, congratulating himself for a 6-3 win over Boston.

"Nobody was really egging me on in the dugout to go," said Payton. "I wasn't really sure. I thought they were still celebrating the home run, but Daniel took it for me. He deserves it. He's been pitching great this year."

And for once, the numbers do him justice. Cabrera has thrown seven consecutive quality starts for the first time in his career, and the Orioles are 7-1 with one suspended game when he starts. And perhaps more importantly, the hulking right-hander managed to pitch well against his hard-hitting nemesis, the defending World Series champions.

Cabrera came into the game with some unsightly numbers against the Red Sox, a team that had battered him to the tune of a 1-9 record and a 7.84 ERA. Boston reached him for 10 hits Wednesday, but Cabrera (4-1) got three double plays. The road team scored in the first inning and didn't score again until notching solo home runs in the fifth and sixth.

And Cabrera, who had dominated Kansas City in his last start, said he felt more gratified by his latest win.

"This feels better, because we won against a hard team for me to pitch [against]," he said. "It's always a big challenge against Boston, because I've been struggling against [them] for all my life. I'm just happy we could get this win today."

Baltimore's starter pitched off his fastball for most of the game, taking advantage of his opponent's aggressiveness. Two of Cabrera's three double plays ended an inning, and the victory was his first positive result against Boston since 2005. And by the end, it was only fitting that he took the team's first curtain call of the season.

"I think he's pitched right in to what the philosophy of the team is," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "Don't snap. Don't crack. Believe in what you got and go get it. Keep after it. Don't change anything [and] keep your poise."

"He's awesome," added second baseman Brian Roberts. "I think that's the guy we all expected him to be. I've told people many times [that] things click for different people at different times. Sometimes it clicks for guys in the first year, sometimes in the fourth. And that's not an knock on anybody, because I probably did a lot of the same things."

Boston catcher Jason Varitek came through with the first of the two homers -- a drive to center field -- and third baseman Mike Lowell followed suit in the sixth to give the Red Sox (24-19) a three-run lead. That looked like it may be enough for starter Jon Lester, who shut the Orioles (21-19) out for five innings before finally running into trouble in the sixth.

Lester gave up hits to the first two batters he faced in that inning, and Baltimore's first run came home on a groundout. Right fielder Nick Markakis singled to send the second run home, and Lester got two strikeouts to end the threat. The Orioles had also threatened in the fourth, but Manny Ramirez made a tremendous catch to keep them scoreless.

With one out and two men on base, Ramirez made a leaping over-the-shoulder catch at the wall. And as if that wasn't enough, he bounded up the wall, slapped hands with a spectator in the crowd and threw the ball back to the cutoff man. Dustin Pedroia, Boston's second baseman, took the relay and threw to first in time for a rally-killing double play.

"More times than not, that takes the wind right out of your sail," said Trembley, referring to the catch and probing his team's fragile psyche. "And you go, 'OK, here we go again.' You don't see that with these guys. You don't see it. They keep coming at it. They're going to keep coming at you. It's fun. That's what 40 games have been to me. It's been fun."

Baltimore loaded the bases in the eighth, thanks to a two-out hit by catcher Guillermo Quiroz and a walk drawn by Roberts. Boston went to southpaw reliever Hideki Okajima in that tight spot, but Payton drilled a hard liner over the left-field fence. That set the Camden Yards crowd into hysterics, and it took Cabrera doffing his cap to calm them down.

"Last year, when we played the Red Sox and even the Yankees, I think we were outnumbered at home," said Payton. "The last couple days have been nice. We dominated the crowd today, so I think that was a good thing for the fans."

"We have to earn the respect and get back people on board here," added Trembley. "People have every reason to jump ship or to feel the way they do, because for a long time here, it hasn't worked out the way they wanted.

"But all I'm asking is for people to give us a chance, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure we play it right, do it right, and earn what we get. I think the players understand that, too. They don't want it given to them."


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