If there were a lesson for Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera to ponder while he served a recent six-game suspension, it might have included the wisdom of throwing strikes instead of throwing behind a batter's head. You're more likely to win games that way.
Cabrera didn't lose his composure last night, and he didn't lose a game. But he's still looking for that elusive first victory in more than a month. Not everything is in his control, even when he's maintaining his own.
Trying to avoid the indignity of being the majors' sole leader in losses, Cabrera left after seven innings with the Orioles ahead 2-1. Pinch hitter Mark Grudzielanek homered off reliever Jamie Walker (3-2) in the eighth to rob Cabrera of the decision, but Nick Markakis hit his 22nd in the bottom half to hand the Kansas City Royals a 3-2 loss in a makeup game played before an announced 15,769 at Camden Yards.
The original game April 15 was postponed because of rain - back when both teams could dream of contending for a playoff berth. The Orioles (67-89) have changed managers since that soggy night, and Kansas City's Buddy Bell announced his resignation effective at the end of the season.
Markakis reached down for a curveball and cleared the center-field fence against starter Gil Meche (9-13). After striking out his first two at-bats, Markakis increased his RBI total to 109, the most for any second-year player in club history.
"I was a bit frustrated with my first two at-bats," he said. "I was able to see all his pitches going into that last at-bat, and I just wanted to put a good swing on it."
Chad Bradford stranded a runner at third base to record his second save, and the Orioles swept the season series from the Royals (67-89) by winning all seven games.
"Everybody has a lot going on. This is the final week to be here at home, but it's a good way to get it started," manager Dave Trembley said.
"I thought the guys showed a lot of hustle tonight. They played hard. There was some enthusiasm right from the first inning."
Center fielder Tike Redman's two-out double broke a scoreless tie in the fifth, and Melvin Mora later singled to increase the lead to 2-0. The Royals answered in the sixth with Mark Teahen's two-out double that scored Esteban German, but they were denied in the seventh when Redman made a lunging catch of German's sinking liner to strand two runners.
That was the last inning for Cabrera, who held the Royals to one run and six hits, walked three and struck out five. He's still 9-17, with no victories in his past seven starts.
"He wanted to pitch tonight," Trembley said. "I thought that was a real big factor and allowed him to stay out there. He worked fast, his tempo was good.
"Tonight he showed that he could make some adjustments. He mixed up his pitches. He threw more breaking balls and changeups than he's probably thrown in the last six or seven starts."
And no pitches were aimed at a hitter.
Cabrera was suspended after sailing a fastball behind Boston Red Sox rookie Dustin Pedroia during a Sept. 7 game, leading both dugouts and bullpens to empty. He appealed the ruling and squeezed in one more start, an 8-5 loss in New York.
"I'd hope we've all learned from all these instances that have occurred here," Trembley said. "I think it would be to his benefit to do that. I think he would regain a lot of respect from his teammates by going about it that way."
Said Cabrera: "I don't need to reflect on nothing. That's in the past. I don't think about it. The past is the past."
Cabrera's return began the final homestand of the season, a week that will be devoted in part to formulating a plan for the 2008 season.
Trembley said he'll meet with team president Andy MacPhail tomorrow to discuss the composition of next year's coaching staff "and get feedback from him on that." But it won't be the most important order of business. Trembley knows there are more pressing needs.
"Our philosophy, an agenda, an identity, a direction, identify personnel. I think that's more appropriate," he said.
For Cabrera to be an integral part of next year's rotation, he'll need to pitch as he did last night - not the way that's kept him from winning since Aug. 14.
Only St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Kip Wells can match Cabrera in losses.
"Everything was working fine," said Cabrera, who exceeded 200 innings for the first time in his career. "I felt stronger and I had control of all my pitches."
Notes -- Corey Patterson ran the bases today and told Trembley he felt good. He expects to return to the lineup if he makes it through today's batting practice, outfield and base-running drills ... Jeremy Guthrie threw a bullpen session yesterday and is scheduled to start Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.firstname.lastname@example.org