BALTIMORE | It just doesn’t matter how much Baltimore right-hander Daniel Cabrera struggles against everyone else. Nor how long he’s gone without a victory or even pitching effectively.
Cabrera is kryptonite for the Royals.
That’s the starting point in assessing Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards. The Royals did little against Cabrera after David DeJesus opened the game with a homer.
Mix in a disappointing outing from Gil Meche, a cup-clanging foul tip that knocked down — but didn’t knock out — catcher John Buck and, well, this was a clunker in almost every sense.
The Royals now need a victory tonight in the series finale to salvage a split in the four-game series. They’d be looking to avoid a sweep if not for their stunning rally in Monday’s opener.
About Cabrera, it’s inexplicable how he morphs into a Cy Young candidate whenever he encounters the Royals. He was 0-3 with four no-decisions and a 6.21 ERA in his seven previous starts.
Cabrera, 6-4, rolled through the Royals for his second complete game of the season by yielding just two runs and seven hits. He struck out two and walked none in a brisk 105-pitch effort.
Want to guess the opponent in his other complete game?
Yep. The Royals. That was in a 4-1 victory on May 8 at Kauffman Stadium.
Cabrera is now 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals. Those three no-decisions also resulted in Baltimore victories.
By comparison, Cabrera is 41-53 with a 5.09 ERA against the rest of baseball in his five-year career.
Meche, 6-9, just didn’t have it. He gave up a two-run homer to Aubrey Huff in the first after being staked by DeJesus to a 1-0 lead. Meche yielded another run on three singles in the third after the Royals pulled even in the top of the inning.
The Orioles supplied Cabrera with a three-run cushion by scoring twice in the fifth. That was plenty. The Royals succumbed weakly over the closing innings. They saw just four pitches in the seventh.
Ramon Hernandez had three of Baltimore’s 10 hits, including an RBI single in the two-run fifth. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis scored twice. DeJesus had two singles in addition to his homer.
Buck’s anxious moment came in the fourth when Jay Payton tipped a 2-1 cutter into the danger zone. Buck spent a few moments on his knees in recovery but remained in the game.
DeJesus’ leadoff homer was something the Royals haven’t done since Aug. 17, 2006 when he did it against Mark Buehrle in Chicago.
The 1-0 lead didn’t survive three batters into the Baltimore first.
Roberts punched a leadoff double past third after fouling off four straight pitches. Meche retired Markakis on a pop to third, but Huff ripped an 0-2 changeup over the right-center wall for a two-run homer.
The Royals pulled even in the third but squandered the opportunity for a bigger inning when Mike Aviles grounded into a double play after singles by Joey Gathright and DeJesus put runners at first and third with no outs.
Again, Meche couldn’t follow the run with a shutdown inning. Singles by Markakis, Hernandez and Luke Scott restored Baltimore’s lead at 3-2.
The Orioles extended their lead to 5-2 in the fifth after Meche issued a leadoff walk to Roberts. Markakis followed with a drive to deep center that Gathright reached with a leaping catch — but couldn’t hold after slamming into the wall.
Right fielder Mark Teahen was in line to back up the play but fumbled the pickup. The result was an RBI double and an error, on Teahen, that allowed Markakis to reach third. Hernandez’s hard one-out single past third added another run.