O's lack punch in loss

The Baltimore Sun

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles waited 186 days to see how Daniel Cabrera would respond to the best start of his young career. And while he wasn't nearly as dominant last night as he was when he finished two outs short of no-hitting the New York Yankees last September, his 2007 debut was impressive nonetheless.

It just wasn't enough to compensate for a lifeless performance by the Orioles' offense. A day after scoring four runs against Johan Santana, the Orioles managed only five hits against Minnesota Twins starter Boof Bonser and five relievers, leaving Cabrera to lament each of his few mistakes in a 3-2 loss. None hurt more than his leadoff walk to Rondell White in the seventh inning.

Twins outfielder Jason Tyner, the pinch runner for White, came around to score on Jason Bartlett's broken-bat bloop single, the winning run in the Twins' victory over the Orioles before 24,439 at the Metrodome.

The Orioles are off to their first 0-2 start since the 1995 season when the club dropped its first three games. Jaret Wright will attempt to prevent a Twins three-game sweep in the series finale tonight.

"A couple of little things here and there, and we could have turned it around," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "But we didn't hit much tonight."

Cabrera allowed three runs on six hits and four walks, while striking out nine in seven innings. He threw 110 pitches and it was one of his best, a fastball in on the hands of Bartlett, that proved costliest. The Twins shortstop muscled the pitch over the head of third baseman Melvin Mora into shallow left field, his broken bat landing nearly as far as the single.

"That's a good pitch," Cabrera said. "That's where he was asking for it, a fastball in, and that's where I threw it."

The 6-foot-9 pitcher brought some of the problems on himself in that inning with a four-pitch walk to White and his failure to hold Tyner close to first base. Tyner's steal of second was one of five steals against Orioles catcher Alberto Castillo, who was the second catcher the Orioles have used in as many nights in place of the injured Ramon Hernandez. Two of those runners came around to score.

"You are not supposed to do that, but they did it," said Cabrera, who allowed 11 steals last season in 26 games, and whose slow delivery often left his catcher with little chance to throw out the runners. "I tried to get it quickly to home plate."

The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the third inning against Bonser on a bases-empty home run by Mora and an RBI single by Aubrey Huff, who had two hits for the second straight night. But after the third, they didn't manage another hit off Bonser, who allowed three hits and two runs over six innings.

In fact, they didn't secure another hit until shortstop Miguel Tejada laced a one-out single to center field in the eighth inning. Huff followed with a single, but the Orioles left men on second and third in the inning when Minnesota reliever Jesse Crain got Kevin Millar to fly out to right field.

Twins closer Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth, picking up his second save in as many nights by retiring Mora on a groundout to end the game with Brian Roberts on first.

"We were just a hit away," Millar said. "You obviously want to win those games, but we have a long, long time ahead of us. We are not going to get down, we are going to stand behind each other. Everything is magnified early on, but we are going to be OK. This club is good. We are a lot better than we were last year."

Cabrera, who was 9-10 last season with a 4.74 ERA, seemed to be the ideal pitcher to send to the mound after Erik Bedard's disappointing performance in the Orioles' 7-4 loss on Opening Day.

Cabrera went 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts against the Twins last year and entered last night with a 5-1 record and a 3.25 ERA in seven career starts against Minnesota. The five wins are more than he has against any other team.

Staked to a 2-0 lead, Cabrera allowed two straight singles to start the fourth, putting men on first and third with no outs. Michael Cuddyer followed with a hard grounder that Tejada made a nifty diving stop on and flipped to second baseman Roberts to start a double play. A run scored on the play, but Tejada helped keep the 25-year-old pitcher out of a big inning.

"That changed the game right there," Cabrera said.

It may have, but only temporarily. Perlozzo traced Cabrera's leadoff walk an inning later of Torii Hunter - after being ahead in the count 1-2 - as the turning point. It was the first walk in the game for the pitcher, who led the league in walks last season despite spending about 6 1/2 weeks in the minors or on the disabled list.

Hunter stole second and then scored from third when Cabrera couldn't handle Castillo's come-backer.

The ball, which bounced off the pitcher's glove, was ruled a hit, though it was a play that Cabrera should have made. He said that he lost the ball in the lights.

Perlozzo acknowledged that Cabrera tends to fall off the mound in his delivery, a factor that may have led to his problems. Either way, Cabrera, his height hurting him in this case, has always struggled fielding his position. On this night, it led to a defeat in a game he pitched well enough to win.

"If he had it to do over again, he would have had that ball," Millar said. "But he threw a great game. ... We just didn't come up with the big hit at the right time."


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