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Maybe they should put a sign out on I-95 just south of the city on the way to Camden Yards that says, "Give me your tired of losing, your poor batting averages, your huddled pitching staffs yearning to improve their ERAs."

The Orioles are indeed becoming a beacon of hope to baseball teams of all stripes, all hoping to improve their place in whatever division in which they play. Of course, in the process the O's are killing whatever hope their own fans may have had, not just for this season but for the future.

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Last night was a recurring bad dream. Baltimore starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera threw his usual 100-plus pitches, but it took him less than five innings to do it as his maddening, two-out problems led to a 7-4 defeat to the Washington Nationals, generally considered a not-ready-for-prime-time team and the NL East's last-place club. Abetting Cabrera's shaky outing (four walks, seven runs in 4 2/3 innings) was a lethargic offense. Baltimore's Melvin Mora hit a three-run homer in the second inning but that was it, other than a solo shot by Miguel Tejada in the ninth. The Orioles are now six games under .500, in last place in the AL East behind Tampa Bay (is that sobering or what?) and have lost eight of their last 10. In a cruel twist, the O's bullpen -- a collective goat so far this season -- pitched a little more than four innings of two-hit, no-run ball.

* Well, somewhere there's a baseball season. Detroit's Justin Verlander threw that franchise's sixth no-hitter ever, the first in 23 years and the first ever at Comerica Park last night, shutting out Milwaukee, 4-0. Verlander overpowered the Brewers with 12 strikeouts and was still throwing 100 mph in the last inning.

The last Tigers no-no was authored by Jack Morris in 1984 against the White Sox and before that, you have to go all the way back to Jim Bunning in 1958 against Boston. Virgil Trucks threw two no-hitters for Detroit in 1952. Last night's win has Detroit in a tie for first place with Cleveland in the AL Central.

* And the San Antonio Spurs pretty much wrapped up their third NBA title in five years last night with a 75-72 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland. San Antonio leads the series, 3-0.

The Cavs performed better than the Spurs in a number of statistical categories, but Cleveland shot miserably for much of the game, especially from three-point range, where it was 3-for-19. LeBron James scored 25 points for the Cavs, but it was on 9-for-23 shooting. The game ended with James launching a super long three-pointer after an obvious foul by San Antonio's Bruce Bowen before James took the three that would have tied the score. But referee Bob Delaney didn't blow his whistle.

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