ARLINGTON, Texas - More than half the seats at Ameriquest Field were empty last night, a clear indication that football season has begun and the Texas Rangers aren't going to the playoffs. Not that it would matter if they did. Not in these parts.
The general lack of interest and enthusiasm isn't conducive to pumping up the home team, and it certainly isn't going to bring chills to the Orioles. They have to look elsewhere for motivation. The standings aren't an option.
Playing for pride and personal achievement, and perhaps to ensure that interim manager Sam Perlozzo keeps his job next season, the Orioles took advantage of two unearned runs in the second inning and defeated the Rangers, 4-2, to extend their winning streak to three games.
The Orioles (68-75) have lost 15 of their past 23 games, but they're 3-1 on the current road trip. They moved to within three games of third place in the American League East, a modest goal for a team that spent 62 straight days in first.
"They come out and play," Perlozzo said. "I haven't had to say a whole lot to them. They've been getting into it."
Coming off seven shutout innings in his last start, Daniel Cabrera allowed two runs in 5 2/3 before left-hander Eric DuBose replaced him with Hank Blalock on third base and two outs. DuBose struck out Adrian Gonzalez to preserve a 3-2 lead, and stranded two more runners in the seventh.
"We talked about bringing [DuBose] in behind a hard-throwing right-hander," Perlozzo said. "He came in and dazzled them with that 70-mph changeup."
Not wanting to disrupt Cabrera in any way, Perlozzo again paired the right-hander with catcher Geronimo Gil. They worked together last week when Cabrera stymied the Toronto Blue Jays.
"He pitched so well for [Gil] and I thought it would be a good idea if we let him go ahead and take a crack at it again," Perlozzo said.
Gil was involved in the key play of the night when he lifted a fly ball to right field with two outs in the second inning. Kevin Mench drifted toward the warning track, his body pointed toward center, then tried to turn the opposite way. The ball glanced off his glove and rolled to the fence as two runs scored to break a 1-1 tie.
"That was a pretty well-hit ball. It wasn't an easy catch," Perlozzo said. "The wind was blowing. I actually thought it was going to be over his head further."
Jay Gibbons began the inning with a double off rookie Edison Volquez (0-3), who was making his third major league start and trying to deflate a 17.55 ERA. An infield hit and walk loaded the bases with one out, and Gibbons scored when David Newhan grounded into a force at second.
Gil also provided a key insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth after B.J. Surhoff collected his third hit.
"The guys have been playing pretty good," Perlozzo said. "I'm constantly positive and pushing and cheering. And when Miguel Tejada goes out there and plays, and Brian Roberts goes out and plays and Melvin Mora goes out and plays, they make it easier. And we've mixed in a few kids who are hungry and anxious, and that helps."
Volquez allowed 13 runs over 6 2/3 innings in his first two starts. He was gone after the fourth inning last night.
"We hope one day Edison can make the progress that Cabrera has," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.
Cabrera (10-11) fell behind 1-0 in the first on a leadoff triple by David Dellucci, and a one-out bloop double by Severna Park native Mark Teixeira. He struck out Gerald Laird on a slider and Dellucci on a 98-mph fastball to strand two runners in the second.
"I'm trying to finish strong," said Cabrera, who had an 11.42 ERA in two career starts against Texas. "In this game, it doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish."
So far, his career seems headed in the right direction. Cabrera has won 22 games in two seasons after a brief tenure in the minors that included five Double-A starts.
"I told him I've had a lot of great pitchers and none of them had double figures in wins their first two years," pitching coach Ray Miller said. "He's got a chance to be real special."
The season had that same look for the Orioles in the first half, before their motivation shifted away from October glory.
"We're trying to do it for us and end on a good note because it's been such a sour middle of the year," Gibbons said. "And also for our manager, Sam. Everybody wants to win for him. We want him back."