The pattern on Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera has been established. One good start, one bad start. Momentum comes and then it goes, never staying around for long, often testing a contender's patience.
The good Cabrera came out last night, right on schedule. Only his luck turned bad.
Todd Helton homered in the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie, the ball eluding center fielder David Newhan's leaping attempt and settling into a fan's outstretched glove, and the Orioles lost to the Colorado Rockies, 2-1, before 49,004, the sixth-largest regular-season crowd in Camden Yards history.
The last-place Rockies were the majors' worst road team at 4-26 before last night, making them an unlikely choice to break Cabrera's pattern. He retired 10 straight batters before Helton homered with two outs in the sixth.
"You see signs of brilliance a lot," manager Lee Mazzilli said of Cabrera. "He really turned it up a notch tonight."
Newhan tried to do the same, racing to the fence and timing his jump perfectly. The only thing missing was the ball.
A male fan sitting at the end of the second row beside the Orioles' bullpen reached over Newhan's glove and made the catch. The kid had a souvenir. Newhan had a gripe.
"I didn't interfere at all," said Will Bogen, 16, from Jarrettsville. "He had no chance at catching that one. It was well over his glove. He didn't even try to get the ball. He knew he had no chance. His glove was nowhere close."
Mazzilli didn't have the best view, but he wasn't ready to concede the ball to Bogen.
"It was really hard to tell," Mazzilli said. "He might have leaned over."
Ballpark operations reviewed the tape and determined that Bogen didn't interfere on the play, preventing him from being ejected. But his family left in the seventh inning because of persistent abuse from the surrounding fans.
Newhan wasn't available after the game, but left fielder Larry Bigbie said it would have been "pretty close."
"He was right under it," Bigbie said of Newhan, "but it happened so fast."
Cabrera ran the count full before trying to cross up Helton with a curveball. Helton, the cornerstone of a troubled franchise, turned it into his sixth home run.
"It was a good time to hit one," said Helton, who hadn't homered in 28 games. "I hadn't hit one in so long. I had no way of knowing if it was gone."
Garrett Atkins increased the Rockies' lead in the eighth with a single that scored former Orioles farmhand Eddy Garabito, who had three hits.
Rookie Chris Ray replaced Cabrera after an intentional walk and retired Preston Wilson. Left-hander Steve Kline fielded pinch hitter Luis Gonzalez's tapper to the mound and made the tag.
Cabrera (5-6) has won consecutive starts only once this season, on May 9 and 14. He hasn't lost two straight all season. Coming off his shortest outing of the season, he was due for a big night, even if his disappointment matched it.
In his last start in Cincinnati, Cabrera seemed lethargic in the bullpen and never brought any intensity into the game. His icy glare was missing, which didn't go unnoticed by the people around him. He couldn't get comfortable on the mound and was removed after failing to record an out in the third inning.
"I felt a lot better tonight," he said. "I had better location. I think my next start, I can throw better, too."
With their season going up in smoke, the Rockies (22-43) could be preparing for a fire sale. Jennings is one of their most valuable bargaining chips, and the Orioles have confirmed interest.
Jennings (4-7) scattered six hits over seven innings and struck out Sammy Sosa three times.
Brian Roberts, who failed twice with the bases loaded earlier in the game, hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to drive in the Orioles' lone run. Right fielder Cory Sullivan made a lunging catch with runners on the corners and none out, and his throw almost nailed Eli Marrero, who led off the inning with a triple and gambled by tagging up.
The Orioles kept wasting opportunities in the first six innings. Melvin Mora doubled with two outs in the first, and they loaded the bases with two outs in the second before Roberts grounded out.
Roberts also hit into a double play with the bases filled in the sixth. He beat the Rockies last June with a ninth-inning grand slam, but he couldn't work the same magic last night.
"I didn't get the job done," he said.
Said Mazzilli: "Brian Roberts comes up with the bases loaded and one out, you've got to like your chances there. He didn't come through, but how often can you expect that with him?"
Opponent: Colorado Rockies
Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Rockies' Byung Hyun Kim (1-5, 5.91) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (6-4, 5.36)