Diamondbacks 3, Orioles 0
By the second inning Thursday night, rookie Daniel Cabrera appeared to have special power in his right arm. By the fifth inning, his every out was greeted with a small but discernible buzz from the crowd. By the sixth, he was banished to a solitary spot on the Baltimore Orioles' bench, shunned by teammates unwilling to risk jinxing what was, to that point, a perfect game.
But by the end of the seventh inning, Cabrera was gone -- along with his perfect game, no-hitter, shutout and his win. Just like that, in the time it took Steve Finley's home run to clear the scoreboard in right, a night that hinted at history turned into just another Orioles loss.
The crowd of 25,106 that witnessed Thursday night's 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards may never remember the final score. They may never remember the rain that began to fall in the sixth inning, or the 10 baserunners the Orioles stranded .
What they will remember is Cabrera -- a 6-foot-7 right-hander who had never pitched above low Class A before this season, and who had not pitched above Class AA before being called up to the majors a month ago -- mowing down the first 18 Diamondbacks hitters he faced and strutting slowly off the field at the end of each inning.
"You can see when a guy has confidence," catcher Robert Machado said. "He had a lot of confidence."
Cabrera's downfall began with three straight balls to Diamondbacks second baseman Scott Hairston in the top of the seventh, which begat a leadoff walk, which begat Finley's two-run homer on a misplaced 0-2 fastball, which begat a three-run, four-hit inning. Which spelled the end of Cabrera's night.
"I felt good, but it just happens in this game," Cabrera said through an interpreter. "When you miss your spots, you get hurt."
With the Orioles unable to generate a clutch hit against Diamondbacks lefty Casey Fossum (1-4) or two relievers, Cabrera's remarkable effort was wasted, as the Orioles (26-29) fell to a season-high 101/2 games out of first place.
"This lineup is a pretty good lineup," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You just go through a phase. We have too good [a collection of] hitters to go through that."
Facing a makeshift Diamondbacks lineup featuring four hitters who began the year in the minors, Cabrera -- by pumping a steady stream of strikes -- quickly foiled their plot to coax him into hitter's counts. Only one of Arizona's first 18 hitters even came close to a hit -- when right fielder B.J. Surhoff made a running, diving catch of Danny Bautista's sinking liner in the fourth.
At the end of each inning, Cabrera would strut with his head down toward the Orioles' dugout, pumping his fist rhythmically if the mood struck. When he approached the first-base line, he would leap it gracefully, as a gazelle might a small stream.
Rain began to fall in the sixth inning, and fans used their giveaway beach towels to cover their heads. As Cabrera took the mound to warm up before the seventh, he smoothed the dirt in front of the pitching rubber -- his landing area -- with his cleats.
"I wasn't even aware," he said later, "that it was raining."
But suddenly, Cabrera seemed uncomfortable. He threw three straight balls to Hairston -- his first 3-0 count of the night -- then after grooving a 90-mph fastball down the middle for strike one, threw another fastball outside for ball four.
Pitching out of the stretch position for the first time all night, Cabrera was surprised when Finley squared to bunt. But Finley fouled off his first bunt attempt, then did it again on 0-1.
Before the third pitch of the at-bat, Finley called time out, walked to the on-deck circle, took a hand towel, and wiped the rain off his batting helmet. Then, he stepped back into the batter's box and broke Cabrera's heart.
"He was a little 'sneaky-quick,' " Finley said of Cabrera. "You thought you were on a pitch, and then it was by you."
For the 0-2 pitch, Machado had set up off the outside corner, but Cabrera missed the target badly, his two-seamed fastball catching the inner half of the plate, and Finley hammered it on a line, just barely clearing the scoreboard. Cabrera stood nearly motionless on the mound as Finley circled the bases.
"It was," Machado said, "the only mistake he made all night."
Orioles Notes: Although the Orioles are still maintaining contact with free agent outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, he informed the team he is still bothered by his right thumb, which was broken in spring training. So the team will wait before deciding whether to sign him.
"We're going to stay in touch," said Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie. "We'll wait and see what his thoughts are. Certainly we'd like at some point to get more information."
Hammonds, 33, was released by San Francisco on June 5. . . .
Right fielder Jay Gibbons will make a two-game rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Bowie on Friday and Saturday, and likely will be activated Monday in Cleveland.