CHICAGO -- Daniel Cabrera's last start before the All-Star break was a microcosm of the previous 14 this season. There were moments of great struggle. There were stretches where he appeared to be in control. And there was an overall inconsistency from pitch to pitch that makes any progress from the 25-year-old impossible to gauge.
The Orioles will choose to fixate on Cabrera's last 5 2/3 innings, not the first inning where the right-hander put the team in a huge hole. The Chicago White Sox touched Cabrera for four runs in the first and then held on to beat the Orioles, 4-2, before a sellout crowd of 38,873 last night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Jeff Conine just missed tying the game in the ninth. With men on first and second against closer Bobby Jenks, Conine drove a ball off the base of the wall in dead center field. It scored Melvin Mora and cut the Orioles' deficit to two runs. But with two men in scoring position, Jenks struck out Corey Patterson, Ramon Hernandez and Kevin Millar for his major league-leading 26th save.
Cabrera threw an Orioles season-high 124 pitches, 37 in a ragged first inning in which the White Sox sent 10 men to the plate. Cabrera's final line read 6 2/3 innings, four earned runs, eight hits, six walks and six strikeouts. He has allowed a major league-leading 70 walks.
The loss, coupled by Tampa Bay's win over Boston, means that the Orioles (39-47) are a half game out of last place in the American League East. They are also eight games under .500 for the fourth time this season.
Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, the Orioles put men on second and third with no outs, but couldn't score. Starter Jon Garland got Luis Matos to ground out to third, lefty specialist Matt Thornton got Brian Roberts to do the same thing and then Jenks struck out pinch hitter Javy Lopez on four pitches. The last pitch, a high fastball, registered 100 mph on the radar gun.
Cabrera, who hasn't won since June 10, allowed seven of the first eight White Sox he faced to reach base. Scott Podsednik started it all, working a leadoff walk. He then stole second and scored on Alex Cintron's single.
Jim Thome followed with a single and Paul Konerko drove in Chicago's second run with a sacrifice fly to center. Then came a single to Jermaine Dye, another single to A.J. Pierzynski, which gave the White Sox a 3-0 lead, and a walk to Joe Crede to load the bases.
Cabrera then issued his third walk of the inning to Rob Mackowiak, giving the White Sox a 4-0 lead. Cabrera struck out Juan Uribe and got Podsednik, the 10th hitter of the inning, to ground out to Conine at first. A day after Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce Chen put the Orioles in an 12-0 hole, they trailed by four runs before their second at-bat and their starting pitcher had already thrown 37 pitches.
Cabrera, at least, kept the deficit there. He book-ended strike outs of Cintron and Konerko around a groundout by Thome for a perfect second. Then in the third after Dye hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a groundout to the right side by Pierzynski, Cabrera got out of the inning by getting Crede on a groundout and striking out Mackowiak looking.
His wildness got him in more trouble in the fifth as he issued back-to-back one-out walks. But Luis Matos, starting in right field in place of Nick Markakis, who was diagnosed with a right calf strain before the game, made a nice catch at the fence on Pierzynski's liner for the second out. And after Cabrera hit Crede with a fastball, Cabrera retired Mackowiak on a liner to center.
In the sixth, Uribe led off with a single, but Cabrera struck out Podsednik on a nasty curveball and then got Cintron to hit into a double play.
With Cabrera's pitch count at 107, Perlozzo sent him back out to the mound for the seventh. He surrendered a leadoff single to Thome, which earned the young right-hander a visit from pitching coach Leo Mazzone. It was Mazzone's third visit of the evening.
Cabrera got Konerko to hit into a double play. He was then removed from the game after walking Dye, sprinting off the mound, obviously pleased with the damage control that he had just performed. Kurt Birkins came and retired Pierzynski on a groundout to shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were taking precious few good swings off White Sox starter Jon Garland, who came into the game with a 7-3 record, but a bloated 5.60 ERA. Garland retired 10 consecutive Orioles to open the game. Brandon Fahey got the Orioles' first hit, a one-out, fourth-inning double to left-center field, but he didn't score.
The Orioles got on the board in the sixth. Millar hit a leadoff double and Matos moved him to third with a ground ball. After Roberts hit a weak fly ball to shallow center for the second out, Fahey laced a double down the right-field line.