Never able to do more than paw at Toronto Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett, the Orioles got in a few significant shots last night. Not the kind that send a pitcher reeling, but enough to let him know they mean business.
All they needed was for their own starter, Daniel Cabrera, to show the same fight. And a little more composure.
All they got was another defeat.
Cabrera couldn't make it through the fifth inning or add another link to the chain of solid starts by the rotation, his error hastening his departure in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays before an announced 17,852 at Camden Yards that dropped the Orioles into fourth place in the American League East.
Toronto knocked out Cabrera with a four-run fifth that broke a 2-2 tie and left his pitch count at 91. He drilled Troy Glaus on the hip, infuriating portions of the Blue Jays dugout, and later mishandled a throw from Kevin Millar while covering first base for what should have produced the final out.
"He could have been a little rusty early on," said manager Sam Perlozzo, noting that Cabrera was working on six days' rest. "The inning he gave up four runs, I thought he lost his composure a little bit and he wasn't able to damage control for us."
The Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, got run-scoring singles by Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, and eventually sent nine batters to the plate.
One of them, Matt Stairs, reached when Cabrera couldn't hold onto Millar's throw, allowing Wells to score.
"It was a physical mistake, but at the same time, it didn't help us. It cost us another run," Perlozzo said. "When you're playing tight games like we've been playing, no team can make a mistake like that."
Perlozzo immediately brought in Scott Williamson - the reliever's first real action since coming off the disabled list. Williamson also threw an inning in Monday's Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"To me, [Cabrera] was just missing his spots with his curveball," Rios said, "and that's the key for him being successful."
The Orioles had tied the game in the fourth after loading the bases with no outs against Burnett (5-3) and getting a run-scoring single from Aubrey Huff. Melvin Mora bounced into a double play, with Miguel Tejada racing home.
But Cabrera (3-5) walked the leadoff hitter in the fifth, and seven of the eight batters he faced reached base, the outs coming on a double play. He turned in his shortest outing of the season and made his quickest exit from the clubhouse, leaving before reporters were allowed inside.
"Things just started to unravel a little bit," Perlozzo said. "You've got to step back from the situation and say, 'OK, let's go ahead and pitch.' The team put two runs on the board for you, so it's time to start to pitch and stay in the ballgame."
Cabrera nailed Glaus with a fastball before the error, resulting in a glare and a flipped bat, but no altercation. Predictably, Burnett threw behind Jay Gibbons' legs with his first pitch of the fifth inning, bringing a warning to both benches from plate umpire Brian Runge.
"That's the third or fourth time that's happened against us," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "What will happen is his teammates will get hold of him and straighten him out because they are the ones who will have to pay."
Said Burnett: "I have to protect my teammates."
Told that Cabrera has developed a reputation for throwing too far inside, Burnett said, "That's what I've heard. It's not good to have that kind of rap."
Perlozzo thought Burnett should have been ejected and yelled at Runge from the dugout.
"I'm under the assumption if you know it's an intentional throw, you don't need to give a warning. You just throw the guy out of the ballgame," Perlozzo said.
Brian Roberts hit a two-run homer off Burnett in the same inning, reducing Toronto's lead to 6-4. Left-hander Scott Downs replaced Burnett, who is 3-0 lifetime with a 2.97 ERA against the Orioles, with two outs in the seventh.
"He got some pitches up today, but when you're throwing that hard with a big curveball, you can make some mistakes and get out of trouble," Huff said. "You've got to tip your hat, he's got good stuff."
The Orioles (20-25) tried to keep the focus on the game instead of their embattled manager. Jim Duquette, vice president of baseball operations, offered curt answers to two questions regarding Perlozzo's job status during batting practice, saying the team "already addressed the topic."
"I've said 100 times a manager gets too much credit when you win and all the blame when you lose," Huff said. "We've got to play good as a team."
He has another suggestion.
"We need to have fun," he said. "We're just pressing so much. You take [Monday's exhibition] game, for example. I was talking to a lot of guys. We went out there with no worries, clear heads, and had fun. You get in a situation where, when wins are kind of scarce, everybody presses a little bit too much and the game stops being fun when you're going through periods like this. A lot of us are doing that."