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Lose by a mile, lose by a hair. It's all the same in the standings, I suppose. But psychologically, it's really quite different. Watch the other guys score 30 runs or 11 in a single inning and you can kid about it -- after all, what else you can you do? But to have a three-run lead evaporate and lose in 12 innings -- mostly on unearned runs -- against a team that has a payroll that's the equivalent of pro sports' minimum wage and, well, I'm not sure what comes next.

Neither does Orioles manager Dave Trembley, I fear, whose graciousness and patience and gung-ho attitude is being tested.

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If you didn't hang around for it, the Orioles lost, 5-4, in 12 innings to Tampa Bay, which has the worst record in the majors. Twice in the ninth inning, they were one strike away from a win. If the Orioles don't end their eight-game losing streak tonight, they will have been swept by the Devil Rays. Only two teams, Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox, have fewer wins in the majors. And Baltimore will be hard-pressed to finish with a better record than nominal I-95 rival Washington, which had a starting rotation at the beginning of the year that probably included your brother-in-law.

Moving on.

*  Cleveland, on a five-game winning streak, is beginning to put some separation between itself and Detroit in the AL Central and now has a 4 1/2-game lead. Last night was one of those hallmark games for the Indians as they not only completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota, 4-3, but they beat Johan Santana -- the AL Cy Young winner two of the last three years. Cleveland's own ace, C.C. Sabathia, pitched six innings, allowing two runs, and helped hold on to to a four-run lead his teammates gave him in the first inning. The Indians struggled for a while after the All-Star break and had let the Tigers get back into the divisional fight, but Cleveland has won 10 of its last 13 while the Tigers, losers last night to Kansas City, have dropped seven of their past 11.

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