OAKLAND — Edward Cabrera had one goal in mind as he took the mound for Monday's series opener at the Coliseum: Finish the game.
The 24-year-old right-hander almost got his wish as he dominated the A's lineup, retiring 14 straight batters to end his night with eight sterling innings in the series opener. Once he got back in the dugout, Cabrera was pleading his case, trying to be granted the chance to go back out for the ninth.
But manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. had made up their mind — after all, Cabrera had already set career highs in pitches (101) and innings. So in the end, Cabrera fell one inning short of his goal, settling for eight scoreless frames of two-hit ball as the Marlins cruised to a 3-0 win over the A's.
"We'd already made the decision, but he was fighting for sure," Mattingly said. "I was happy that he was fighting and wanted to go back out there."
While Cabrera had been visibly fired up in the dugout, he later said he was placated by the reasoning to take him out of the game.
"They explained to me that they're trying to take care of me," Cabrera said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "Yeah, I wanted to finish the game, but I understand the decision from the management."
Cabrera has not allowed a run in four appearances since returning from the injured list on Aug. 5 after a bout with right elbow tendinitis, posting 22 2/3 scoreless innings in that span. He is only the second pitcher in Marlins franchise history to toss four consecutive scoreless starts, joining southpaw Chris Hammond, who accomplished the feat in May 1994.
Cabrera only has 14 big league appearances under his belt, but the Marlins have been impressed by his growth between the 2021 and '22 campaigns. He has now made seven starts in each of his seasons in the Majors, and the strides he's made are evident.
2021: 0-3, 5.81 ERA, 20 runs (17 earned) in 26 1/3 innings
2022: 4-1, 1.41 ERA, six runs (all earned) in 38 1/3 innings
"He was always a guy that had electric stuff but didn't really know how to use it correctly," said Marlins catcher Nick Fortes, who has played alongside Cabrera in Miami's system since 2018. "Kind of sprayed a little bit, a lot of walks, but now he's able to get everything in the zone and pretty much read swings and dissect which pitch would be good in which situation, rather than just throwing it aimlessly."
That self-assurance was on display from the beginning on Monday night, as Cabrera had to pitch around early traffic after walking the first two batters he faced. He then fell behind in the count, 3-0, to A's catcher Sean Murphy.
Cabrera pulled himself together and threw three straight strikes, catching Murphy looking with a well-placed sinker that just grazed the bottom of the zone. From there, he retired the next two batters to get out of the inning cleanly.
“That kid’s got really good stuff," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "We didn’t take advantage of that early two-walks situation, but he made pitches. It’s a really good mix. … The 12-to-6 breaking ball is sharp. The changeup is a weapon. It’s an equalizer. It’s off the same lane as the sinker, and the sinker is up to 97 mph. He made his pitches tonight, and you tip your cap to that.”
Once Cabrera settled into a rhythm, he seemed to get stronger as the night went on, striking out the side in the seventh inning and needing just 10 pitches to retire the side in his final frame in the eighth.
To hear his teammates watching from the dugout tell it, it's been a joy to watch a confident Cabrera blossom in the Majors.
"He knows he can do it now, and it's kind of what we saw with Sandy [Alcantara] as well," said Brian Anderson, who collected two walks and an RBI double on Monday. "He kind of turned that corner and turned into the star that he is, it's cool to watch Cabby do the same thing."
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Being compared to the frontrunner in the NL Cy Young race isn't something Cabrera takes lightly, as the young right-hander said he constantly picks Alcantara's brain and tries to emulate his work ethic.
The most important lesson he's learned from Alcantara so far?
"To stay strong every day," Cabrera said. "He's a guy who has an amazing discipline, and I see him working every day. And he's very strong because of that, so I try to mimic and follow those steps."
“PLAY FISH WIN” pic.twitter.com/QBlOThPn8L
Edward Cabrera extends scoreless streak with gem vs. Athletics – MLB.com