BALTIMORE, May 3 -- The countless minutes spent in bullpen sessions trying to repair a faulty delivery that had caused a slow start to his season could not have taught Daniel Cabrera how to prevent a 15-foot, half-swing single.
In Baltimore's 1-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, Cabrera, who pitched eight innings and allowed just four hits, could not avert Russ Adams's infield single with one out and men on first and third in the eighth. Adams was fooled by a slider and took a half-hearted swing at the pitch. Cabrera chased down the ball, looked at home and then glanced at first base. He couldn't make either play. He looked toward the ground, perhaps realizing his best start of the season was wasted.
"That was a base hit you could call lucky," Cabrera said.
Last week's rainout against Boston provided an opportunity for Cabrera to work on his mechanics. Instead of pushing all of their pitchers back two days -- the Orioles had a day off after the rainout on Wednesday -- the coaching staff decided to skip Cabrera's start.
During that time, Cabrera, who entered the game with a 7.65 ERA, was asked to improve on his delivery, which is often long and deliberate, almost expected of someone who is 6 feet 7. The Orioles were concerned Cabrera's leg kick was too high, thereby impeding his ability to control the location of his pitches.
Worse yet, Cabrera's leg kick proved costly with men on base. In his last start on April 22 against the Blue Jays in Toronto, Eric Hinske, a slow-footed first baseman, stole second and third against Cabrera without so much as a throw from the catcher.
But when pitching coach Ray Miller tried to considerably lower the leg kick during a bullpen session only days after that outing, Cabrera seemed uncomfortable. The two compromised. Cabrera's leg kick was now neither too high nor too low.
"Those 10 days I had off I really worked with Ray in the bullpen," Cabrera said. "My breaking ball was better. I can throw it anytime in any count."
Almost immediately Cabrera made it a point to establish his curveball. Toronto hitters expecting the fastball were met by a looping breaking ball. They often swung and missed.
"When we saw him in Toronto we saw a lot of fastballs," Adams said. "I think in Toronto he wasn't getting the breaking stuff over so much. Tonight he was feeling it and throwing that pitch for a strike for the majority of the night."
By the top of the fifth inning, Cabrera had matched a career high for strikeouts. He set a new career high in the seventh with his eighth strikeout.
Baltimore sees Cabrera as a valuable commodity, either as a member of the rotation for several years to come, or as trade bait this season should the Orioles remain in contention. Several in the organization would rather trade him than heralded Class AA prospect Hayden Penn, who has been almost un-hittable this season.
Cabrera was tested when he walked the first two hitters in the eighth inning. He forced a fielder's choice grounder from Alex Rios, which put men on first and third with one out. Adams, who already had fouled off a squeeze bunt attempt, hit a check-swing grounder that traveled just 15 feet down the first base line. The Blue Jays had a 1-0 lead.
"It was a ball where I just tried to check my swing," Adams said. "I didn't even see the play. I was busting my butt to first base."
Former Orioles pitcher Josh Towers pitched eight scoreless innings for the win. Baltimore's aggressive nature on the bases has won them several games this year, but it may have cost them this one. Three Orioles were thrown out on the bases. The Orioles have scored just two runs in two losses against the Blue Jays. Counting the final six innings of Monday's loss, Baltimore has three hits in its last 15 innings.
The night eventually may be remembered, though, for Cabrera's resurgence and not for the 15-foot-ground ball that kept him from a win.
"Yeah I'm happy," he said. "But I'd be more happy if the team won."