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6:01PM

Cabrera's fortunes change quickly for the A's

OAKLAND – It’s a game of numbers. Baseball is a small island of activity in a great sea of statistics. Virtually nothing goes unrecorded. To the people who play it, however, much goes ignored.

They know what they are doing. Or what they are not doing. Orlando Cabrera was the new guy for the Athletics, although after 16 years in organized ball, he hardly is one of the new guys in the game.

That fact his average was a miserable .190, that he entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay with only three hits his previous 37 at bats, was balanced by Cabrera’s recognition of performance.

“I was happy with a lot of those 37 at bats,’’ Cabrera said, “even though I haven’t been getting hits. I was battling. A lot of things can happen. It’s just like playing poker. Fortunes change quickly.’’

They changed Sunday for Cabrera. And for the A’s.  He had a double and a single. The A’s had a second straight win over the Rays, who, it’s almost hard to remember, were in the World Series last fall.

Oakland played a dominant game, Dana Eveland -- whose locker is adjacent to Cabrera’s -- getting his first pitching victory as the A’s beat the Rays, 7-1.

“It was probably our best series of the year,’’ A’s manager Bob Geren was to assert. “Just the way we started it, down (Friday) night and the way we finished it.’’

We’re always impatient around baseball, where patience is of the essence. Ballplayers don’t string things together like the fans or media do. Any game might be a bad one. Or a brilliant one. Players judge over weeks and months.

Cabrera was hitting .190, Jason Giambi .211, Matt Holiday .238, Nomar Garciaparra .222.  Embarrassing and perplexing, but not fatal.

“It was just a matter of time,’’ said Geren, a man of equanimity. “We’ve got a lot of quality hitters with proven records. Orlando is a .290 hitter, an excellent hitter at the top of the lineup.

“He looked a little bit off, but just (Saturday) he told hitting coach Jim Skaalen, ‘Don’t worry about me. My hits are just about to start coming.’ So we have a guy that knows his game and his ability level and is confident enough to say something like that and then go out and do it.’’

These A’s have been disappointing. The addition of Holliday, a .319 hitter, Giambi, Cabrera and Garciaparra was supposed to make Oakland a contender. They need success. They need attention. The Giants can always rely on their park. The A’s can rely only on what their ad agency promotes as “100% baseball.’’

There are noticeable failings around the American League. The Angels have a losing record. The Rays, champions of ’08, have a losing record. The A’s have a losing record. The supposition is the Angels and Rays will recover. The hope is the A’s will recover.

And they might.

“You look back at the last couple of weeks,’’ Geren insisted, “and we had guys in position. We left a ton of people on base. We were one hit away here and there from winning a lot of games.’’

The hits came comfortably Sunday, 10 in all, at least one by everyone in the starting lineup and two from Cabrera, who said he had been seeing good pitches yet hadn’t been “lucky enough’’ to get the hits.

Asked if perhaps he were pressing to prove the A’s were correct in signing him in March, the 34-year-old Cabrera shrugged. “I’m too old for that. I can’t do anything about that stuff. I just play my game. Of course, you want to do good all the time. You try.

“You want to help the team win.  It’s nice to go 3-for-4 with five RBIs, but you can also do the little things if you’re not hitting, move a guy over, play defense.’’

The little things have been done. Now he needs the big thing. Now Orlando Cabrera needs to hit the way he did on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
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