Reds 10, Orioles 1
-- The problems Saturday began before the game in the bullpen, where the young pitcher was wild but his demeanor was tame. The icy glare that makes Daniel Cabrera so intimidating at times appeared to give way to a look of confusion. He couldn't explain it. But somehow, for some reason, he did not feel comfortable and it was certainly an ominous sign heading into a start. The fastball jumped out of his hand and cut six or seven inches to one side, and Cabrera had no idea why.
"That never happens," catcher Sal Fasano said.
Once again, the Baltimore Orioles lost an opportunity to separate themselves from their division rivals and once again, as has been a common theme this season, it was because of a frustrating start by Cabrera. In Baltimore's 10-1 thumping by the Cincinnati Reds, Cabrera lasted just two innings.
"That was definitely the oddest he's looked," Fasano said. "He didn't look comfortable. He didn't look like himself. He gets intense when he pitches, but today he wasn't intense."
At this point, Cabrera does not appear ready to be a consistent starter in the majors. Psychological tests administered by the Orioles in the past several years indicated Cabrera has tremendous poise and desire. But his performance in the second inning of Saturday's loss showed neither of those traits. Cabrera (5-5) allowed a single to Adam Dunn to start the inning and then forced a hard ground ball from Rich Aurilia that seemed to swallow up Miguel Tejada.
The shortstop could not make a play, which put two men on base with no outs. It was at this point that Cabrera seemed to lose control of himself and the game.
He walked the next two batters, which scored a run.
"I don't want to think that mishap changed something because that can't be," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said.
Cabrera seemed incapable of throwing a strike. His pitches sailed wide or landed high. Just as he is capable of throwing a 96-mph fastball, Cabrera also is able to quickly lose his mechanics on the mound.
"It's tough for us because we try to help him, but we can't," Tejada said.
With the bases loaded, Cabrera threw mostly fastballs, likely because he lost all confidence in his other pitches.
"I didn't feel good and that's not supposed to happen," Cabrera said.
Reds hitters soon discovered an easy pattern. With one out in the inning, Felipe Lopez sent one of Cabrera's pitches over the right field wall for a grand slam that gave Cincinnati a 5-0 lead.
The Reds added to their lead in the third after Cabrera walked Ken Griffey Jr. and then immediately allowed a home run to Dunn.
After Cabrera threw two balls to the next batter, Mazzilli walked slowly to the mound and gave Cabrera a stern lecture for several moments. He asked what the problem was, and Cabrera did not have an answer. He said he simply didn't feel right. After several moments on the mound, Mazzilli replaced Cabrera with James Baldwin.
"My ball today I think moved too much," Cabrera said. "When it moved to the plate it was like a cutter and it sometimes went high."
The two-inning, seven-run performance put Cabrera's ERA at 5.88, which is seventh worst in the American League among starters. Left-handed batters are hitting .313 with seven home runs against Cabrera this season. The 24-year-old has allowed at least five runs in six of his 12 starts this year. But it's unlikely that Baltimore will remove Cabrera from the rotation at any point this season. Baltimore believes Cabrera is a budding star, though he only rarely shows that ability.
"You mark this down," Baldwin said. "He's going to be a Cy Young winner. But he's young."
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Baltimore's four-game lead in the American League East, except that it should be much bigger. Perhaps the Orioles will someday soon regret the last eight days, when the second-place Boston Red Sox lost five games, but Baltimore gained only one game in the standings.
"We've built a lead since we left Baltimore," Mazzilli said. "That's a positive for me. Anytime a team behind you loses and you lose it's a lost opportunity. At the same time, you don't feel you lose any ground."