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Another loss, another day of wondering whether Sam Perlozzo will be fired.

The long knives certainly will be out again after the Orioles' blew a two-run lead against the lowly Washington Nationals, 4-3, yesterday when Perlozzo brought in reliever Danys Baez during the eighth and Baez gave up three hits and two earned runs. Up to that point, starter Erik Bedard -- who hasn't won a game since temperatures went about 50 degreees, had thrown seven innings of one-run ball and struck at 12. But he asked out because he knew he was tiring.

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The good news here (yes, there is a wee bit of good news) is that the O's are tied for second place in the AL East with the New York Yankees. The bad news, of course, is that the Boston Red Sox are so far out in front of the pack (10 1/2 games), the rest of the division can barely read the numbers on the backs of their jerseys.

But here's the point I want to make. Perlozzo is getting roasted mainly for pitching decisions. If/when he gets fired, the defining moment of his tenure will be pulling starter Jeremy Guthrie in the Mother's Day Meltdown in Boston. But the bottom line is that this team DOES NOT HIT.

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In the three-game series against the Nationals, during which Baltimore won two, the Orioles scored a total of 11 runs. Counting the five-game losing streak before the interleague weekend, the O's have scored 25 runs in eight games. That's just over three runs a game. They're 11th in the American League and 20th in the majors in runs scored. So when Perlozzo is tossed out of the boat, remember, plenty of folks responsible for assembling this anemic crew will still be around.

* Randy Johnson, 43 years old and coming back from back surgery, won his second game within a week for Arizona, beating Pittsburgh, 5-2.  In those two games (including a 3-0 win over Colorado earlier last week), Johnson struck out 19 batters in 11.2 innings and gave up two runs. His pitch count was pretty high yesterday, 102, but his fastball was humming as fast as 96 mph at times.

* Tim Duncan will lead the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA championship. That's the prediction here.  Duncan is having a terriifc postseason and last night was more evidence -- 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Spurs' 108-100 win over Utah in the first game of the Western Conference finals.  Manu Ginobili, playing 33 minutes off the bench, had 23 points and 10 assists for San Antonio.  Robert Horry, who was scorelss in his first game back since his suspension for mugging the Suns' Steve Nash, still got an ovation from the home San Antonio cowd. Yuck.

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