KINSTON, N.C. It was a night of firsts for Kinston starter Fernando Cabrera.
The 20-year-old Puerto Rican earned his first professional back-to-back wins in helping the Indians outlast Potomac, 3-1, Wednesday.
Cabrera (6-8) turned in a mighty performance, giving up just three hits and one earned run and striking out seven, including four in the sixth inning another career first.
It was his second straight three-hitter. Last Thursday against Winston-Salem, Cabrera allowed two runs and struck out seven in seven innings to earn a 4-3 win. He entered Wednesday’s game with a 3.63 ERA in 20 games, but has often been the victim of poor run support this season.
Cabrera has permitted four or fewer hits in 14 of his 21 starts and has been the hard-luck loser in two 1-0 games and received a no-decision in yet another 1-0 contest.
“I just tried to throw strikes and be ahead of the batters,” Cabrera said of his outing Wednesday. “I had a little trouble in the third, but I kept on my game and made my adjustments. I feel like I threw pretty good.”
Said Kinston manager Ted Kubiak: “He pitched good. He did a nice job, got the strikeouts. As well as he’s pitched, I wish his record was a little better. He’s been very consistent.”
All three hits he allowed came in the third inning. Al Rodgers and Milko Jaramillo began the frame with consecutive singles. Third baseman Corey Smith then made a spectacular catch to get out Ramon Araujo on a pop foul, but Christopher Morris singled in Rodgers from second to give the Cannons a 1-0 lead.
Hector Luna tied the game with a two-out homer, his eighth of the year, off Potomac starter Dan Haren in the bottom half of the inning. Kinston grabbed the lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Heath Wilson.
Cabrera struck out Skip Schumaker in the sixth, but catcher Wilson couldn’t hold on to the pitch and Schumaker advanced to first.
The next batter, former Kinston first baseman Billy Munoz, struck out looking. Munoz argued the call and was ejected by home plate umpire Andrew Vincent. Potomac manager Joe Cunningham took up Munoz’s cause and was also tossed from the game by Vincent. Munoz and Cunningham were the third and fourth Cannons to be ejected in two nights. Jeremy Luster and Rodgers were ejected from Tuesday night’s game for arguing balls and strikes.
Cabrera struck out Ryan Hamill and North Carolina graduate Dan Moylan to end the inning with four strikeouts.
“I don’t try to strike out guys,” Cabrera said. “I just try to get them to ground out. But I ended up striking out six of the last eight batters I faced. I was feeling better in that inning (the sixth). I wasn’t trying to strike them out, but it just happened.”
Smith drilled another two-out home run for Kinston in the sixth his 10th of the season to give the K-Tribe a 3-1 advantage.
Nate Fernley relieved Cabrera in the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out four. Brandon Matheny pitched the ninth to earn his third save.
Haren (2-2) was the hard-luck loser Wednesday. The 21-year-old from West Covina, Calif., fanned 10 Indians and scattered four hits, but allowed all three Kinston runs.
The Cannons and Indians play the rubber match of their three-game series tonight at 7. Lefty Shane Wallace (0-1, 10.80) will look to bounce back in his second start since returning to Kinston when he faces Potomac’s Donovan Graves (1-6, 3.95).
Grady Sizemore, riding an 11-game hitting streak, went 0-for-3 Wednesay.
He’s the fourth Kinston player to reach 11 the team-high for the season.
Eric Crozier, Corey Smith and, most recently, Joe Inglett all had streaks conclude at 11. Luna’s streak reached 10 with his blast in the third.
Kinston (14-16) improved to 10-5 against the Cannons (16-15) and 5-4 on the Indians’ current 10-game homestand.