Cabrera Dominates Royals With Three-Hitter

Gem Ends Team's Losing Streak at 5: Orioles 4, Royals 1

Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, right, looks to the outfield as Baltimore's Nick Markakis rounds third base after his decisive three-run homer in the third inning.
Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, right, looks to the outfield as Baltimore's Nick Markakis rounds third base after his decisive three-run homer in the third inning. (By Charlie Riedel -- Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008; Page E06

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 8 -- After Kansas City's Billy Butler struck out, Baltimore Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera spun his body and pumped his fist. He couldn't help but rejoice -- he'd just notched his first complete-game victory since one-hitting the New York Yankees in 2006.

"You're working four days for that, you're working four days to be in the ninth," he said. "And the day that you have it, it feels great."

The strikeout punctuated the right-hander's fifth career complete game, which lifted Baltimore to a 4-1 victory Thursday night that ended the team's season-long five-game losing streak.

Cabrera dominated from the start on the strength of his sinking fastball. He struck out seven and yielded just three hits and one walk. Perhaps the most startling statistic was the way Cabrera went about retiring hitters.

Of the 27 batters he retired, 18 came by way of the ground ball.

"That's the best I've seen him pitch," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said.

Cabrera said pitching coach Rick Kranitz has encouraged him to throw the sinking fastball more often, which he said explains part of his fast start this season. The continuing success has raised Cabrera's confidence.

"I've always had that pitch," Cabrera said. "I've been scared to throw it too many times. Now, Kranny's telling me to keep on throwing it. You will see good results. And so far, that's what it is."

Shortstop Freddie Bynum arrived just in time for the best spot in the house for Cabrera's gem. Playing in his first game since coming off the disabled list, Bynum fielded eight grounders induced by Cabrera.

"I don't even know who the guy is," Bynum said. "It's like he's a totally different person than he was last year. It's like he's grown up, like he's maturing. He's making his pitches when he needs to make them. It's pretty awesome to watch."

Cabrera also enjoyed some support.

The biggest hit of the game came off the bat of right fielder Nick Markakis, one of the most promising power hitters on the roster. Markakis drilled a Luke Hochevar pitch over the center field wall, a 407-foot drive that knocked in three runs. And he appeared to be so locked into the moment, that he nearly overran Melvin Mora at second base.

Of course, there was reason to celebrate: His shot was the first three-run homer of the season for the Orioles, which came after a wait of 35 games and 1,168 at-bats.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Baltimore hit 32 homers to start the season without a three-run homer or a grand slam.

The last time the Orioles did anything close was during the historically terrible start of the 1988 season, when Baltimore hit 34 homers before hitting a three-run shot or a slam.

"I'm very well aware of it," Trembley said of the three-run homer. "I think it's good for anybody, I think it's good for our team, and anything we can do to silence all the nonsense, I think it's great."

Kansas City scored when Tony Peña Jr. singled home Ross Gload with two outs in the fifth inning. But Cabrera responded with a shutdown inning in the sixth, needing only nine pitches to retire the side in order. Cabrera retired 13 straight to end the game.

"When you get ahead, you can throw sinkers lower and lower around the plate, the hitters get more aggressive and you get a lot of ground balls," catcher Ramón Hernández said.

Cabrera has lasted six innings or more in all but his first start of the season -- a streak of seven games. He has pitched past the seven-inning mark in three of his last four assignments and delivered Baltimore's first complete-game effort since former Oriole Erik Bedard shut out Texas last July 7.

"It all starts with the guy on the mound," Trembley said. "And he put an end to losing. The way he pitched is indicative of what he's done since Day One in spring training. Maybe people will start to believe this guy has made a lot of progress."

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