Angels, Cabrera are just a tick off

Times Staff Writer

Orlando Cabrera is used to providing airtight defense, not needing his manager and teammates to come to his defense, but the shortstop didn’t leave the Angels much choice in the wake of Wednesday’s 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Cabrera is usually one of the first players to leave the clubhouse after games, whether he has a huge offensive night and makes a game-saving play or, like Wednesday, he misplays a few grounders that lead to the end of a pair of five-game win streaks, one for the Angels, one for ace John Lackey.

Lackey had a 4-0 lead after three innings, thanks to Mike Napoli’s two run-scoring singles and RBI doubles by Reggie Willits and Casey Kotchman, but Minnesota right fielder Michael Cuddyer’s two-run home run in the fourth made it 4-2.

Twins catcher Mike Redmond opened the fifth inning with a chopper up the middle. Cabrera, who began the day with a .988 fielding percentage, best among American League shortstops, and three errors, fewest among AL shortstops, rushed his attempt to catch and throw, and the ball caromed off his glove, a play that was ruled a single.


Jason Kubel followed with a potential double-play chopper up the middle, but the ball nicked off Cabrera’s glove near second base for an error. Instead of having two outs and no one on base, the Twins had two on and no outs.

Nick Punto worked the count full, and Lackey, not wanting to walk Minnesota’s No. 8 batter to load the bases, grooved a fastball that Punto drove over the wall in right field for his first homer, turning a two-run deficit into a 5-4 lead.

The Twins scored another run in the inning on Justin Morneau’s two-out RBI single and two more in the ninth against reliever Dustin Moseley to end their four-game losing streak.

“He’s human,” Manager Mike Scioscia said of Cabrera, who had two hits to raise his average to .333. “He’s as consistent as you can get, but there were a couple of plays today that, 99 times out of 100, he makes. That’s baseball.”

Scioscia did not talk to Cabrera about his error, but “it was obvious he was trying to make the play before he got the ball,” the manager said. “You give a team five outs in one inning, they’re going to have a good chance of scoring some runs.”

Cabrera didn’t speak to reporters because he left the clubhouse before the media was let inside. Nor did he say anything to Lackey, who lost for the first time since May 5 and fell to 9-4.

“There’s no need for that,” Lackey said. “The dude’s trying. It’s more surprising than anything to me, because he’s played great defense all year.... He’s saved a lot more runs than he’s let in. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pick him up today.”

Cabrera’s improved play, along with the addition of center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. and the return of first baseman Casey Kotchman, are the primary reasons the Angels’ defense is vastly improved over last season, when they led the AL with 124 errors and gave up 80 unearned runs.


Cabrera’s error Wednesday was the team’s 37th of the season, and the Angels have given up 21 unearned runs, putting them on pace for 98 errors and 55 unearned runs.

“He’s the best shortstop in the game, but you’re going to have a play like that here and there,” Willits said. “It happens.”

Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey, making his second career start, gave up five runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits in five innings to get his first big-league victory, departing after Howie Kendrick’s solo home run in the sixth. Lackey gave up six runs -- four earned -- and seven hits in seven innings.

“We scored enough runs and hit the ball well,” Lackey said. “It was definitely a game I thought we could win.”