CINCINNATI - The trip seemed to last a full inning, though it came at the end of one. Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera, moving in slow motion from first base to the opposite dugout, his head down, his jaw clenched. Almost coming to a complete stop, he turned at the waist and jumped over the third base line, a habit born out of superstition.
As if his luck at that moment could have gotten any worse.
Cabrera was the last player to reach the bench, a five-run second inning weighing him down. The Cincinnati Reds loaded the bases with none out, scored on a four-pitch walk and darkened Cabrera's mood with a grand slam by Felipe Lopez that highlighted their 10-1 victory over the Orioles last night at Great American Ball Park.
It never got any better for Cabrera (5-5). Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer in the third after another walk, his 16th homer this season. Cabrera fell behind 2-0 to the next batter, Rich Aurilia, and manager Lee Mazzilli popped out of the dugout.
"This was probably the oddest that he's looked," catcher Sal Fasano said. "He didn't look comfortable, he didn't look like himself."
Mazzilli stayed on the mound so long, his lecture allowing room for Cabrera to speak, that plate umpire Phil Cuzzi soon joined them. Mazzilli didn't take the hint, continuing their meeting until turning toward the bullpen and signaling for reliever James Baldwin.
"I asked him what was the problem. [He] said, 'I don't know. I don't feel right,'" Mazzilli said.
The issues apparently had nothing to do with Cabrera's health.
"I don't feel good about the game," Cabrera said. "Seven runs in two innings. That's not supposed to happen. But if he felt that was the time to take me out, that's fine with me."
Maybe it was the weather, though the Dominican-born Cabrera should be used to the heat. The Reds kept enough of it on him.
"It was humid, he was sweating a lot. He probably was getting tired quick," shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "It's tough for us because we tried to help him."
Cabrera had one trip left after Mazzilli's visit, and this time he just stepped over the line. The Reds already crossed it by forcing Cabrera into his shortest outing of the season, two-plus innings of abuse.
"He was just all over the place," Mazzilli said. "I told him, 'It doesn't seem like you're throwing the ball.' It seemed like he was trying to aim everything. He just didn't have that vigor. He couldn't control the ball. It was moving on him and getting away from the strike zone."
Left-handers were batting .306 with five homers against Cabrera before last night, while right-handers were hitting .177 with no homers. Lopez, who had a career-high six RBIs, is a switch-hitter and turned to the left against Cabrera. Dunn bats from the left side. The numbers don't lie.
They do, however, become worse. Left-handers were hitting .313 against Cabrera by the time Mazzilli pulled him. His overall ERA rose to 5.88, seventh worst among American League starters.
"This is, by far, the most unique start he's had," Fasano said. "He wasn't himself today. Lee sensed it and I knew it in the 'pen. He gets pretty intense when he pitches and today he wasn't intense."
The Orioles (36-25) could have increased their division lead to a season-high five games after the Boston Red Sox lost again in the afternoon. But eight of 14 batters reached against Cabrera, who threw 54 pitches, and the Orioles fell to 6-6 on a road trip that ends today.
Their lead over the Red Sox stood at three games when they left Baltimore, so they can do no worse after today than end up back where they started. "And we've knocked two weeks off the schedule," Mazzilli said. "That's a positive to me."
Left-hander Brandon Claussen set down the first 13 batters before Rafael Palmeiro lined a single into center field. Fasano singled to lead off the sixth and Brian Roberts walked with one out, a rally blooming in a 7-0 hole. But Melvin Mora swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play.
The shutout stayed intact until Fasano homered with two outs in the eighth, only the third hit allowed by Claussen (3-3).
Baldwin, making his fourth relief appearance with the Orioles, pitched three perfect innings after replacing Cabrera. He struck out two and hasn't allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Ottawa on May 21, retiring 19 of 21 batters.
"You look at Baldwin, he doesn't have Cabrera's stuff, but he finds a way. He knows how to get out of situations, and that's part of developing and learning," Mazzilli said.
Looking at Cabrera last night, Baldwin could sympathize. He has been there, an inexperienced pitcher feeling on top of the world one start and over his head the next.
"He's good, he's got a lot of stuff going for him," said Baldwin, 33, who broke into the majors in 1995. "As a young guy, the biggest thing is trying to do too much. He'll be OK. You'll have your ups and downs. You need to have someone around to let you know it's not as bad as it seems.
"Mark this down - he's going to be a Cy Young winner. It's just got to click for him."