And that start, even against a highly touted opponent, was hardly an aberration. Cabrera, hailed by many to be a highly improved pitcher during the first half of the season, has worked to a 7.32 ERA since the All-Star break and remains at or near the top of the American League leader board in walks (76), wild pitches (14) and hit batsmen (17).
Despite his struggles, manager Dave Trembley has too many rotation concerns to consider lifting him. The Orioles pulled Garrett Olson and Dennis Sarfate on Monday and have yet to name a replacement for either arm. Baltimore had earlier yanked two other starters (Steve Trachsel and Brian Burres) for inefficiency and lost Adam Loewen to an injury.
"I don't know who else we're going to bring in," said Trembley, when asked if Cabrera's continuing inconsistency prompted even more concerns about his starting staff. "Goodness sakes, that'd be really reaching for straws there."
Perhaps it would be, but the status quo hasn't left much margin for error. Cabrera's velocity -- which used to reach 98 mph -- was consistently around 90 on Tuesday night, and neither he nor his manager had an explanation for it. Cabrera, who briefly pitched in the Minors in 2006 to restore his confidence, met the media in a somber tone after the game.
"My mechanics were really bad for the first two innings," Cabrera said softly. "They started getting better after the third, but still no good. That's how the game is. You work, and when you come in, you try to do the best you can."
Cabrera, who led the AL in walks and losses (18) last season, had trouble from the very first batter on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed the Red Sox to sandwich two hits around a walk and exited the first inning down two runs. Boston (73-53) scored once in the second on a solo homer and three more times in the fifth to seal Cabrera's stat line.
Catcher Jason Varitek hit the first home run, and third baseman Kevin Youkilis drilled a two-run shot in the fifth. Cabrera's ERA (4.98) rose to its highest point since April 18, which was his fourth start of the season. Baltimore (60-65) supported him with two runs in the third inning, but Cabrera (8-8) was unable to slow down or stymie Boston's batting order.
"I'm just trying to attack the zone and trying to throw a strike," he said with an air of barely masked resignation after the game. "They take a lot of pitches, and that's why they're so good."
"I don't know if it's so much Cabrera as it is the philosophy that teams like the Red Sox have," added Trembley in support. "They have a distinct approach: They work the count, they're not afraid to get deep into the count, and they're not reluctant to hit with two strikes. I don't think that they particularly do that against Cabrera. I think that's their approach that they take against most every team that they play and every pitcher they face. I think there's other teams emulating that."
The Red Sox pulled away in the later innings, but Baltimore had an opportunity to take command in the fourth. The Orioles trailed by one run at that point, but they got two hits and drew a walk to load the bases against Boston's Daisuke Matsuzka. A few moments later, Matsuzaka (15-2) escaped by striking out Melvin Mora and coaxing a popup from Aubrey Huff.
"That's what good pitchers do," said center fielder Jay Payton. "They take advantage of what they've got. We battled. We've been swinging the bats good. You've got to tip your cap to their pitchers. The way guys have been swinging the bats, especially our top four hitters, to come in here and shut us down the way they have over the last two days has been impressive."
"We had some opportunities, and Matsuzaka made some big pitches and got out of them," Trembley said. "But we hung in there the best we could. When your team's playing good, everything seems to go their way. And when it's not going their way, it seems like guys out in the field got extra gloves on. ... The way we've been getting production out of everybody in our lineup, you can't fault the effort. And you've just got to say, 'Hey, it didn't swing in our favor tonight.'"
In the aftermath, Trembley seemed at a loss to explain exactly what's been going wrong for Cabrera. He said that the 27-year-old has had a baffling run of bad luck in the first inning of his starts and that he, too, has noticed the dip in velocity.
"I don't think velocity's everything," he said. "I think it's location and movement. ... Normally, if he's got some movement on it, he's got some two-seam action, he's got some sink and he's going to get some ground balls.
"But he didn't, balls were up, and early in the game when you start seeing a lot of fly balls, that gets your attention."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.