Cabrera's three-hitter silences Royals, halts O's five-game skid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- This was the guy who led the American League in losses last year?

Actually, no, say Daniel Cabrera's manager and teammates.

The poised, 6-foot-9 pitcher who shut down Kansas City on three hits while leading the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-1 victory Thursday night is a far different pitcher than he was in 2007.

"That's the best I've seen him pitch," said manager Dave Trembley, whose Orioles broke a five-game losing streak behind Cabrera's first complete-game victory since 2006.

"In previous times, he'd start to spin out of control and he doesn't do it any more. He keeps his focus," Trembley said. "He keeps his poise. He gets himself back in his rhythm. He goes back to pitching. He's not a thrower. That's the big difference."

Nick Markakis had a three-run homer to support Cabrera, who had seven strikeouts and only one walk and used a hard, biting sinker to coax 18 groundball outs.

He also maintained his mastery of Kansas City.

In seven career starts against the Royals, Cabrera is 4-0. The Orioles in those games are 7-0. His lifetime ERA in 714 2/3 innings is 4.89. But in 44 innings against the Royals, it's 2.25.

Oddly, he said he didn't even know he'd never lost to KC.

"No, no. I don't look," he said. "I just go today. Every day is new. They have new players. I just go out there and pitch."

Not only did he lose a league-high 18 games last year, Cabrera also led the league in runs allowed and walks while compiling a 5.55 ERA and hitting 15 batters. He didn't feel like comparing this game to his 7-1 complete-game victory over the Yankees on Sept. 28, 2006, which until now has stood for his signature start.

"That was back in the day," he said. "That's a long time. I'm trying not to remember the bad years, just going on forward from here, man."

Freddie Bynum, who was activated off the disabled list on Thursday and handed Baltimore's starting shortstop job, singled off Luke Hochevar in the third and after Melvin Mora walked, Markakis hit a 407-foot home run to center.

Hochevar (2-2) also gave up a run in the first when Markakis walked, went to third on Aubrey Huff's single and scored on a wild pitch.

Hochevar gave up five hits and four runs in seven innings, walking two and striking out five in his fourth start since being called up on April 20.

Bynum did well in his first chance to grab the shortstop job. He was 2-for-4 and handled eight chances flawlessly, even coming in on a slow roller and making a quick off-balance throw to nip a speedy runner in the fifth.

But he could hardly believe this was the same Cabrera he played with in 2007.

"I don't even know who the guy is," he said. "When I was rehabbing, I watched him pitch, and he's just a totally different person from last year. It's like he's growing up. He's maturing. He's making his pitches when he needs to make them. It's awesome to watch."

Markakis' home run was the Orioles' first three-run shot of the year.

"Oh, I'm very aware of it," said Trembley. "Anything we can do to silence all the nonsense, it's great."

The Royals didn't feel like they'd been shut down by the league's most prolific loser.

"His ball moves fast and moves hard," catcher John Buck said. "It's 95 [mph] with sink. That's why he gets so many groundballs. He was really on."

Said Royals manager Trey Hillman, "He probably had a half-foot of movement to a 90-92 mile-per hour fastball. That's a difficult thing to approach. Our discipline wasn't real bad. We didn't see nearly as many pitches as I would like for us to see, but when a guy is filling up the strike zone, you can't stop and look at everything."

Game notes
This was Baltimore's first game in eight outings that was not decided by two runs or fewer. The Orioles have won the last 10 meetings against KC, including a season sweep in 2007. ... For the Royals, Alberto Callaspo made his second career start in left field.