Cabrera (7-11) has won just once in his last seven outings, and he's allowed four earned runs or more five times in that span. Sunday's start bore a striking resemblance to the way Cabrera pitched three starts ago, when he allowed five earned runs against the White Sox in the first three innings and shut them out for the next three in a 7-6 Orioles win.
There was no such comeback on Sunday, and interim manager Dave Trembley said he has noticed Cabrera's early struggles.
"It's always a concern when you see things like that happen," Trembley said. "What we are going to do about it, I don't know -- just keep working at it and try to get it straightened out."
Cabrera struggled with his control again in the early innings, only to rebound once the Yankees had a four-run lead. The right-hander is on pace to lead the American League in walks (78) for a second straight season, but only one of the free passes came back to bite him on Sunday. Instead, three of New York's first four hits eventually turned into runs.
In the aftermath, Cabrera pointed out that he had also walked five batters in his most effective start of the season. Last time out, the 26-year-old pitched seven one-hit innings in a 3-0 win over the Devil Rays. That was little consolation on Sunday, when the Orioles got their offense going late and couldn't stop the Yankees from putting the game away in the eighth.
"I was just trying to make a pitch the first two innings," Cabrera said. "They got a couple hits [and] I walked a couple people. I was trying to get my rhythm and trying [for] better location."
"He's no fun to face," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "He throws 97, 98 [mph], two-seamers, four-seamers and good breaking pitches. He's actually more effective when he's a little wild because you don't know where he's going to throw the ball. But today, we were patient and got those runs early. He was able to settle down after that, but we got those runs late."
The Yankees loaded the bases after just three batters on Sunday, but Cabrera escaped the first inning with a strikeout, a sacrifice fly and a groundout. He wasn't as lucky in the second, when New York parlayed back-to-back doubles, a one-out single and a 4-3-6-2 double play into three more runs. From there, Cabrera allowed just three baserunners the rest of the way.
Baltimore's bullpen held New York off the scoreboard until the seventh inning, but the staff walked nine batters in all. The end result snapped a six-game win streak for the Orioles and an eight-game winning streak at home. Baltimore, which has lost the season series against the Yankees 16 times in the last 17 years, holds a 6-3 edge so far this season.
"If you give up that many walks -- especially to a team like this -- you're going to lose most of the games," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "Good series. We'll regroup. Tomorrow's a day off, and we'll go into Fenway [Park]."
The Orioles (49-55) fought back in the middle innings and twice made it a one-run deficit. Second baseman Brian Roberts drilled a run-scoring single in the sixth to make it 3-2, and after New York (56-49) scored in the top of the seventh, Aubrey Huff drilled a sacrifice fly to right field. After that, the Yankees poured on five eighth-inning runs to salt away the game.
Roberts figured into another play that almost turned the game around. The All-Star infielder came up with two men on base and his team trailing by two runs in the fourth inning and lifted a hard-hit fly ball to deep left field. Johnny Damon made a long run to get to the ball and made a key backhanded catch, saving the road team's hard-fought lead.
"That was a tied ballgame right there," said Orioles catcher Paul Bako, who walked four times to set a new career high. "That was probably as big of a momentum-buster as we've had in the last month or so. That was a game-breaker."
Veteran reliever Paul Shuey was charged with four runs in the Yankees' eighth-inning rally, and Baltimore came back to score twice in the bottom half to make things cosmetically close. The Yankees went to closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth to preserve the lead, and the relief ace allowed two hits before ultimately slamming the door.
"That Sunday getaway day, may the last man be standing," added Millar. "It was a tough game. It seemed like we were first and second or bases loaded all day on defense. We kept trying to battle back and never got a chance to get the lead. We did a good job of just trying to keep battling, but we just couldn't hold them down."
New York's Alex Rodriguez, standing one home run short of 500 for his career, finished the series 0-for-8 with five walks.
"We made big pitches to him, and he probably helped us out a little bit," Trembley said of Rodriguez. "He chased some pitches out of the strike zone. I can't imagine what he's going through and what he's trying to accomplish. That probably added to the results."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.