- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004

BALTIMORE — It was startling that the Orioles pitching staff held the hottest team in baseball — the Tampa Bay Devil Rays — to four runs in 18 innings yesterday. Even more surprising was the source of the pitching prowess.

Starters Daniel Cabrera and Dave Borkowski, two pitchers with less than two months of combined big league experience this season, made the 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays look like, well, the 2003 Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Cabrera, who got a no decision, allowed two runs and four hits over 62/3innings in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Camden Yards, keeping the game tied before a pair of two-out runs in the seventh gave Baltimore a 4-2 win before 31,438 at Camden Yards.

And in the nightcap, Borkowski, last seen in the majors July 6, 2001, pitched eight scoreless innings before giving up a pair of homers in the ninth. Mike DeJean relieved him to get the final two outs in an 8-2 Orioles win in front of 26,727.

Yesterday, the Orioles didn’t look like the same team that has had trouble getting solid performances from its starters.

Maybe the pitching coach switch from Mark Wiley to Ray Miller on June 26 is starting to make a difference. Or maybe the team’s young staff is starting to grow up. Whatever the cause, pitching has fueled Baltimore to six wins in its last nine games.

“Our starters have been doing a great job the last week,” manager Lee Mazzilli said. “They’ve been going deep into games and getting the job done.”

Orioles pitchers have allowed three earned runs or less in nine of their last 12 games.

Cabrera, who pitched the 16th inning and earned his first save in Baltimore’s win over Philadelphia Friday night, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second inning of Game 1 and allowed only a sixth-inning homer to Tino Martinez.

“The first two innings, I felt a little tired,” Cabrera said. “But if the team needs me [to pitch in multiple situations], I’ll be there.”

Baltimore scored 13 runs in Cabrera’s last start June 30 but scored just 12 combined in his previous five outings. Nevertheless, the Dominican rode through an entertaining pitching duel with Tampa Bay’s Dewon Brazelton, who dominated Orioles hitters for the first four innings but crumbled late in the game.

Brazelton, the third pick in the 2001 draft, retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, mixing a fastball with a tough slider and downright nasty changeup to strike out five batters in the first four innings. But in the seventh inning, back-to-back two-out doubles from Luis Matos and Tim Raines Jr. gave Baltimore its winning margin.

In the second game, the 27-year-old Borkowski never had much to worry about. He set Tampa Bay down in order in the first inning, and by the time he took the mound again, Baltimore was up 3-0.

“The first couple innings are typically the hardest for me,” he said. “You get a big adrenaline rush, and you start to get the ball up. Getting five runs in the first two innings makes it so much easier.”

The Orioles opened the second game, which was a makeup of a June 5 rainout, with four straight singles. Rafael Palmeiro drove in two runs with his single to right, and Miguel Tejada scored when Tampa Bay shortstop Julio Lugo made a wild throw trying to get him at third.

Jerry Hairston finished 4-for-5 with four runs in the second game, matching career highs in both categories and finishing 6-for-8 on the day. Raines and Tejada had three hits each in the second game.

The Orioles bats woke up in the final innings of the first game and early in the nightcap. In the last two innings of the opener and the first two innings of the second game, Baltimore scored a combined seven runs on 13 hits. That kind of offense certainly helps pitching.

Mazzilli wouldn’t say where and whether Borkowski fits into the Orioles’ rotation, somewhat surprising considering Baltimore still doesn’t have a starter for tomorrow’s game. But he did hint Borkowski would be around longer than just this game.

“We were all pulling for him,” Mazzilli said. “The kid deserves another shot, and I think he showed that with the way he pitched.”

Note — Third baseman Melvin Mora was put on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with a strained right hamstring. Mazzilli said Mora would be ready after the All-Star break.

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