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Lose by an inch, lose by a mile. The Orioles have done it all this season and, in fact, did it during the just-completed series against the Yankees in the Bronx. After Tuesday's 12-0 drubbing, Baltimore continued to be the facilitator in the Yanks' improbable run at the AL East title last night. With the Orioles' 2-1 loss to New York and Toronto's sweep of Boston, the Yankees are just 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

Boston moves on to play the Devil Rays in west Florida, where surely the only fans at the ballpark will be Red Sox partisans, while the Blue Jays visit the Yankees. Baltimore gets one more shot at reclaiming some self-respect when it finishes the season with the Yankees at Camden Yards.

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Meanwhile, the Orioles' thin ray of sunshine last night was starter Brian Burres, who threw 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball. What was interesting was that manager Dave Trembley implied that Burres should be in the rotation next year. Considering the Orioles expect quite a few candidates for the rotation -- when a number of hurt pitchers return from injuries -- that's quite an endorsement for Burres.

* Cleveland did more damage to Detroit in the AL Central by completing a three-game sweep with a 4-2 win. Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia raised his record to 18-7. The Indians not only doused the Tigers' hopes for the division but also crushed their chances for a wild-card berth. Detroit trails the Indians by 7 1/2 in the division and are 5 1/2 behind the Yankees in the wild-card race.

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