Their bullpen still is a weak link, their playoff hopes are slim and none, and the Boston Red Sox have a virtual lock on first place.
But the Orioles' five-run eighth inning last night finally gave the 40,585 fans at Camden Yards something to cheer about other than Cal Ripken's 2,135th consecutive game, a 10-7 victory that sent the Red Sox into their first four-game losing streak of the season.
The victory also kept the Orioles -- who are one loss or Boston win away from elimination -- alive in the AL East race. Barely.
Eliminated or not, the Orioles will not stop trying.
"If you think, because we're out of the race, we're going to play any differently, we're not," said Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson, who had two hits, a sacrifice, an RBI and a run scored. "We're professional ballplayers."
A sacrifice fly by Ripken put the Orioles ahead in the eighth and Harold Baines' two-run homer iced it, but their five-run rally was ignited by Boston's third error of the game.
The AL East leaders entered the game with the most errors (102) in the league. The third-place Orioles, with 66 errors, have made the fewest. Go figure?
But Boston's 105th miscue led the Red Sox toward defeat.
Left fielder Mike Greenwell, who had hit his second home run of the night in the top of the inning to give Boston the lead, misplayed Bret Barberie's fly ball into a double, and Curtis Goodwin (2-for-3, three runs) doubled down the left-field line to score Barberie.
Anderson sacrificed Goodwin to third. Rafael Palmeiro walked. Bobby Bonilla singled to right off closer Stan Belinda to score Goodwin and tie the game at 7.
Ripken's fly scored Palmeiro and Baines' two-run homer (his 21st) to center ended what for the Orioles' was a wild night.
Wild because the bullpen let Mike Mussina's 17th victory slip through its fingers in the Red Sox half of the eighth inning.
"Everybody played well, especially Mussina," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "I'm sorry we didn't get the win for him. He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he pitched well enough to get the win."
Jose Canseco started off the bullpen's downfall, twitching in the batter's box and then launching a moonshot over the left-field fence for his 24th home run of the season to tie the score 5-5.
Canseco's 300th career homer came off Jesse Orosco, who also served up Greenwell's homer two pitches later, this one to center field.
Zka,3 The Red Sox added another run that inning on Tim !B Naehring's double and Luis Alicea's infield single. This time Terry Clark was the victim. Mark Lee got Willie McGee to fly to center to end the inning and, in so doing, earned his second win.
Doug Jones struck out John Valentin, Canseco and Mo Vaughn to record his 22nd save, 17 runs and 20 hits later.
"Who would have thought 17 runs would have been scored off Mussina and [Roger] Clemens?" Regan said. "A few runs were scored after they left."
It was supposed to be a pitchers' duel -- Clemens vs. Mussina. But both pitchers were exhausted from their previous outings. Mussina threw 140 pitches and Clemens 128 on Sept. 6.
Clemens threw 112 last night and departed after five innings. He gave up five runs -- three of them earned -- seven walks and six hits. He struck out six.
Mussina threw 121 pitches. He lasted seven innings, allowing seven hits, four runs and two walks. He struck out eight.
Two errors cost Clemens runs just as the third one cost the Red Sox the game.
The second one, in the sixth, gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead.
With Anderson on second, Palmeiro hit a routine grounder to first. It went through Vaughn's legs (through the legs of a Red Sox first baseman, imagine that). It wasn't an error, yet, because second baseman Alicea, backing up the play, scooped up the ball and threw to relief pitcher Mike Maddux.
But Maddux dropped the ball, committing the team's 104th error, and Anderson raced around from second to score.
The Red Sox tied the score 4-4 in the fifth. Canseco doubled with two outs over Anderson's outstretched glove, and Greenwell singled to right.
Mark Smith made a strong throw, but Palmeiro cut it off and nailed Greenwell in a rundown to end the inning as Canseco scored.
The Orioles took a 4-3 lead in the fourth, scoring two runs because of the first Boston mistake.
With two outs, Barberie walked and stole second. Goodwin walked, and Anderson singled to left-center. Only Barberie should have scored, but Goodwin scored an unearned run all the way from first when center fielder Troy O'Leary bobbled the ball and threw to the wrong base.
Greenwell's first home run and Vaughn's two-run blast in the first four innings had helped the Red Sox to a 3-2 lead.
They were the 23rd and 24th home runs given up by Mussina.
Vaughn's first-inning, first-pitch bomb, his 35th homer, landed 441 feet away in the center-field bleachers, the second-longest homer hit at Camden Yards this year. (California's Chili Davis had the longest -- 445 feet on June 10.)
Greenwell's early home run was not as far (410 feet) but was equally impressive, landing on Eutaw Street and taking a high hop in front of the warehouse. It was the sixth ball to land on Eutaw Street in Oriole Park's four-year history.
But more important, it helped Boston regain the lead.
The Orioles made up their two-run deficit in a marathon third inning. Clemens threw 41 pitches, loaded the bases but survived.
Smith walked, Goodwin singled to score Smith and Anderson singled. Then Clemens walked Palmeiro to load the bases.
Bonilla struck out. Clemens went to a full count on Ripken, then walked him to score a second run. Clemens also went to a full count on Baines, but struck him out to end the inning.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Red Sox's Rheal Cormier (6-5, 3.97) vs. Orioles' Kevin Brown (7-9, 3.93)
Tickets: 5,000 remain