Aubrey Huff finally broke the tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single that scored Nick Markakis, and the O's went on to beat the Devil Rays, 3-0, their fourth straight victory over Tampa Bay this year.
Cabrera's performance was arguably his best all season and an important step forward after he endured a difficult July. In four starts this month, he went 0-2 with a 6.65 ERA and never lasted past the sixth inning. Tuesday, however, Cabrera one-hit the Rays over seven innings and dropped them to their fourth loss in a row.
"What Cabrera did tonight is ... I'd like to say he took his foot off the pedal," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "I think he's been trying to force it a little bit, and when those situations have come up, he tries to speed the game up and throw harder. And when he does that, he gets in trouble. Tonight, he showed very good poise."
Cabrera's poise hasn't surfaced often this season, but he was able to control his 97-mph heater enough to induce three double plays that greatly helped his cause.
"Other people know me as a hard-throwing guy, so sometimes I struggle with control, but tonight I felt good, and I put everything together," Cabrera said. "Sometimes I walked somebody with nobody on base, and got the next guy to ground into a double play, so that's pretty good."
Beyond Huff's lone RBI, the Orioles' offense couldn't come up with timely hits to pad its lead. Rays starter Scott Kazmir and reliever Juan Salas each walked in a run in seventh inning, but the O's wouldn't need the help as relievers Paul Shuey and Jamie Walker pitched a scoreless inning to clinch the win. Walker picked up his second save in as many games.
Baltimore hitters left the bases loaded in the seventh inning and left nine runners stranded on base in the game. Only third baseman Chris Gomez, who went 3-for-4, was able to produce a multi-hit game.
Gomez's one mistake came when Salas picked him off trying to steal third base in the eighth inning, and Trembley wasn't happy with the decision.
""I told Gomez, 'You're lucky you didn't just keep right on going up those stairs,'" Trembley said. "I said, 'You had a lot of guts to come back out and run back out on the field for the ninth.' That's bad baseball, plain and simple. If it works, it's great, but when it looks like that, that's bad baseball."
However, Trembley had nothing but praise for Cabrera, his enigmatic right-hander, who showed yet another sign of what his talent can do.
"There's only one other time I saw him throw like this, and that's when I was managing in [Double-A] Bowie," Trembley said of Cabrera. "I think it was a noon game and he struck out 11. We got on the bus that night and went to Akron, and when I got there, they called me and he went to the big leagues. That was probably the last time I saw him dominate like he did tonight. He dominated tonight with his fastball, and he did not give in with his location or velocity."
Cabrera attributed some of his energy to the large crowd at Camden Yards, which gathered to see Cal Ripken Jr.'s sendoff ceremony before he's inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. The crowd of 42, 579 marked the biggest since Opening Day, and the win put Baltimore eight games under the .500 mark, its best record since June 14.
"I think the team fed off Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and Earl Weaver," Trembley said of the energy from the pregame ceremony, which included several Orioles Hall of Famers. "That'll let you know what this thing's all about. There's some history and tradition here, and we're trying to play up to it."