Thursday, May 8, 2008

O's-Royals, I Took His "Cabrera-ness"

Daniel Cabrera will try to stop the O's skid against the Royals. #1 pick Luke Hochevar is going for KC - he hasn't become the top-of-the-rotation starter that some expected, but he can still be a solid guy in the rotation.

It looks (from the MLB Gameday feed) that there is a pretty wide strike-zone today as Brian Roberts gets called out on a pitch off the plate. Nick Markakis is able to draw a walk, but the strike that was called on him was well outside. He did a good job of recognizing that those pitches will be called strikes and fouled them off before taking ball four low. Aubrey Huff fouls off several pitches out of the zone (that probably would have been called strikes) and singles to center. Kevin Millar is up with a chance at an RBI. The opportunity is still there, but the O's are ahead 1-0 as Hochevar throws a wild-pitch and Markakis comes in to score. I guess the ball got pretty far away, because Huff went all the way around to third. Millar grounded out to short, but Daniel Cabrera will go out with the lead.

Daniel comes out throwing 90-91; hopefully he can take advantage of the wide zone. David DeJesus goes down swinging at a 93 mph fastball - it would have been a strike either way. Hey, Freddie Bynum is playing shortstop! He handles his first chance of the year, as Mark Grudzielanek gets jammed and grounds one to him. Alex Gordon gets a ball in the middle of the plate (though at the knees) and lines a double to right. Cabrera keeps it in the zone to Billy Butler, and gets a groundout to second to end the inning.

The O's go down in order in the second, with Luke Scott striking out on a foul tip.

Cabrera's velocity is up to 94-95, and he strikes out Mark Teahen looking on a fastball on the inside corner (though it might have been a little low). Then he gets Alberto Callaspo looking (this one was definitely in the zone). Ross Gload grounds out on the first pitch, and Daniel is looking good so far.

Freddie Bynum may have just locked down the shortstop position as he hits a line-drive single in his first at bat of the year. Roberts strikes out again, on a slider, but the pitch gets away from the catcher allowing Bynum to go to second. Melvin Mora works a walk to put two on for Kakes. Hochevar leaves a change-up up and out over the plate, and Nick hits it out to center field (sign the man!). That's his seventh of the year, and gives the O's a 4-0 lead. I wonder how many home runs he'll hit once he starts pulling the ball. Five of the seven have been to center or left. The O's get no more, but Daniel has a large cushion to work with.

John Buck and Tony Pena Jr. both have long at bats (with Pena fouling of several pitches) but both end up grounding out. DeJesus makes things easy by just grounding out on the first pitch.

Luke works the count, but ends up getting called out on strikes on a pitch well below the knees. Ramon lines out, and then Adam Jones gets called out on a pitch off the plate inside. That's five K's for Hochevar, however he has already thrown 77 pitches.

Two groundouts and a swinging strike-out on a slider by Billy Butler for KC in the fourth. Daniel has thrown 52 pitches with 33 going for strikes, and is mowing down these Royals hitters.

Freddie Bynum takes two balls and then hits another line-drive single. We may have an actual shortstop, ladies and gentlemen. The first pitch to Brian is way outside - called strike one. Hochevar then gets him to ground into a double play - not a good day for Roberts at the plate. Mora flies out to end the inning.

Two pitches to Teahen - groundout to second. Two pitches to Callaspo - groundout to short. Six consecutive 95 mph fastballs to Gload, who finally times one and single to right. Daniel goes to four straight sliders between two fastballs against Buck, and walk his first of the game. The shutout is gone as Pena singles to right to bring in Gload. DeJesus grounds out to end the inning, but the Royals have cut the lead to 4-1.

Nick hits the ball hard again, but this time it goes to the shortstop for an out. Millar gets on via error, but the O's can't extend their lead.

Ten pitch inning for Daniel, including a three-pitch strike-out of Butler. He got him looking on a 95 mph fastball off the outside corner, but threw a slider on the previous pitch for a called strike. Nice to see him come back from the previous inning like this.

Adam Jones hits a one out double to set up an RBI chance for Bynum. Freddie grounds out though, dropping his batting average to .667. Brian Roberts can't come through, as he flies out to right. That's 109 pitches for Hochevar, and I imagine he's done for the day. Other than the homer by Markakis (which wasn't that bad of a pitch, really) he pitched OK (7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K).

Seven pitches - three ground balls - another 1-2-3 inning for Daniel. I'm going from cautiously optimistic to just plain optimistic - I think he really may have turned a corner as a pitcher.

Leo Nunez comes in from the KC pen. Nunez sets the O's down in order, and it's still 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Will Cabrera come back out?

He will indeed, and he gets Buck to fly out to right on a slider (which was in the zone). I can't wait to see the Pitch/FX data from this game [hey, it's up right now!] A couple of grounders to Bynum ends the inning. Sherrill time in the ninth, or a complete game for Cabrera?

Closer Joakim Soria and his 0.00 ERA come in to keep things where they are in the ninth. Soria doesn't appear to have his stuff today, as after getting Millar he hits Scott, gives up a single to Ramon, and then hits Jones to load the bases. Trey Hillman has seen enough, and removes him from the game. Joel Peralta comes in and strikes out Bynum swinging. I won't say anything since he's had a good game. You know who hasn't had a good game so far? Brain Roberts. And it continues as he grounds out to second.

4-1 Orioles going into the bottom of the ninth, and it'll be Daniel Cabrera going for the complete game. After another groundout, Daniel gets Alex Gordon looking on a fastball just off the inside corner. And what a way to end it, getting Billy Butler looking on three pitches (the third was well off the plate, but whatever). Outstanding performance for Daniel. 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K. He threw 115 pitches - 75 for strikes. Now that is what it means to be a "stopper". The team loses five in a row, and he comes out and completely mows through the Kansas City batters. They certainly aren't a Murderer's Row, but still.

With the win (his third) Daniel drops his ERA to 3.54. He's upped his K-rate to 5.74 per nine (still on the low side, but it'll go up) and lowered his walks to a respectable (though still high) 4.05 per nine. Most impressively, he got 18 groundouts to 2 flyouts. This is the Daniel Cabrera we've been waiting for. Now we just need to wait and see if he can keep it up.

[I had the thought that maybe my poor pitching performance in the opening games of my work's softball league took some of Daniel's bad karma or mojo or whatever. I walked the whole other team, as well as a couple of spectators. I think I walked in multiple runs. 19-0 and 10-0 are pretty bad finals, and they were only that good because of a couple of outstanding defensive plays in the outfield and some excellent glove-work at first base (having a guy over there that can really pick it gives all of the infielders confidence to make the tough throws). I didn't do any Daniel Cabrera yelling or glove-pounding on the mound when things went poorly, but I actually thought that it was a classic Cabrera-like meltdown during the 13 run inning. So you're welcome, from one Daniel to another.]

4-1 Orioles' win to start out the four game set. How good would a sweep be before coming back to Baltimore to host the Red Sox? They're off to a good start.

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