For brief intervals of every season, even losing teams play perfect baseball. The Orioles are in the midst of such a time.
For two straight nights, they have jumped to big early leads with contributions from all over the lineup. They have fielded every tough grounder. Their starting pitchers have worked deep into games without stringing together mistakes.
Last night, those elements added up to a 9-0 pounding of the Texas Rangers before an announced 30,914 at Camden Yards.
"Those [games] were probably as good ... as we've played all year, because we got contributions from a lot of people," manager Dave Trembley said.
Starter Daniel Cabrera (8-7) authored one of the happier chapters in his perpetual Jekyll and Hyde tale, pitching six shutout innings and allowing four hits and three walks (one intentional).
Melvin Mora homered and drove in four. Nick Markakis homered and drove in three. Brian Roberts reached base four times and scored three runs.
"We're swinging the bats well as a team. We're pitching," Markakis said. "Hopefully, it will continue."
After a strong start to the season, Cabrera had fallen prey to the inconsistency and wildness that have hampered his career. He leads the American League in walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen. And he had allowed six runs or more in three of his past four starts.
"He can be a dominant pitcher," Trembley said. "When he's not, we know what his problems are."
Nonetheless, Trembley keeps the faith that each start by Cabrera could be the beginning of a fabulous run. Last night, Cabrera rewarded his belief.
He flirted with trouble in the first inning last night. Texas loaded the bases with two outs and Cabrera went to a 3-2 count on Jarrod Saltalamacchia before ending the threat with a strikeout.
"I think it changed the whole game," Cabrera said of escaping the jam.
"That was a scary moment when he loaded the bases," Mora said. "But he handled it pretty good."
For the next four innings, you would never have known that the towering right-hander induces managerial ulcers with his ups and downs. He cruised with nary a walk or deep count. He seemed to lose his way with two walks in the sixth but escaped on a groundout when he needed it.
The Orioles, meanwhile, pounded Texas starter Vicente Padilla (12-6).
After a two-homer game Friday, designated hitter Kevin Millar got the offense started again yesterday with a bases-loaded single in the first to score Roberts.
Markakis cost the Orioles a run by not advancing home from second on Millar's single, but he apologized to Trembley after the inning and said, "I owe you."
He followed with a three-run homer, his 17th of the season, in the second. Later in the inning, Aubrey Huff doubled to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, matching the longest by the Orioles this season.
The Orioles loaded the bases again in the fourth, and Mora put them ahead 6-0 with a line-drive single.
Roberts was a key figure in each of the offensive flurries, reaching base and scoring in his first three at-bats. He smacked his league-leading 42nd double in the fourth inning and hit an RBI single in the fifth.
His double-play partner, Juan Castro, coming off his first multi-RBI game since 2006 on Friday, went 3-for-3 and scored in his first two at-bats.
Castro, the club's latest stopgap at shortstop, also demonstrated his nifty defense. He grabbed a ball in the hole and made a long throw to get Michael Young in the third inning and picked up a late-hopping liner by Travis Metcalf in the sixth.
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