NEW YORK - Melvin Mora took full blame for the latest in a long line of Orioles losses last night, and the way he said it spoke volumes about how this horrific stretch is affecting the team's first-half MVP.
"It's my fault," Mora said, explaining a first-inning moment of indecision that cost the Orioles five runs in their 7-3 loss at Yankee Stadium. "I was on the moon. I don't know what I was thinking."
The New York Yankees completed the four-game sweep, sending the Orioles to their 18th loss in the past 19 games.
For the Orioles, it's a stretch that is starting to conjure memories of their 21-game losing streak to start the 1988 season. This time, it has been 10 losses, one win, and now eight straight losses.
Yankees pitcher David Wells had two teeth knocked out in a fight at a Manhattan diner last weekend, but the only ones looking toothless last night were the Orioles. Wells (17-7) allowed two runs in eight innings, beating his former club for the fourth time this season.
"We played well this series, but it got a little ugly tonight," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "But it wasn't a lack of effort. It wasn't a lack of enthusiasm. Everybody played hard and played well for the most part. We just didn't catch any breaks and didn't score enough runs, and that's kind of been the story of this string."
Sean Douglass (0-3) took the loss, but he deserved better than his final pitching line: six-plus innings, 10 hits, seven runs, six earned, one walk and six strikeouts.
Douglass would have been out of the first inning unscathed, but with two outs and the bases loaded, Mora had his costly misplay.
Rondell White hit a fly ball into the right-center gap and just before Mora was about to catch it, he glanced over at right fielder Luis Matos and pulled up short.
The ball landed on the outfield grass for a double and two runs scored.
"You have that happen when people aren't used to playing with each other," Hargrove said. "It always seems to happen in September. It's never pretty when it does."
Compounding the damage, Douglass left an 0-2 breaking ball over the middle of the plate, and Nick Johnson hit it over the right-field wall for a three-run homer to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead.
The Orioles had taken a 1-0 first-inning lead on Jeff Conine's two-out homer, but just like that the Yankees controlled the game.
"I was mad because this guy [Douglass] threw a pretty good game for us, and it should be different," Mora said. "Douglass threw awesome."
Mora tried making up for his blunder, hitting a one-out home run in the third inning that trimmed the Yankees' lead to 5-2. It was Mora's 19th homer of the season, but the rest of his offensive numbers are falling fast.
At the All-Star break, Mora was batting .265 and had become a fixture in the leadoff role. During this 19-game stretch, Mora has seven hits in 56 at-bats, lowering his average to .237.
"There usually is a trade-off when you hit a lot of home runs," Hargrove said. "This is the first full season Melvin has played, and he doesn't have a track record, so I don't know."
Douglass, a 23-year-old rookie, didn't let his first-inning frustration ruin him. He held the Yankees to three singles from the second inning through the sixth, facing the minimum of 15 batters during that span.
"I had to say, 'That inning's over, I'm not going to let it affect me,' " Douglass said.
But the Yankees finally buried the Orioles in the seventh. Johnson and Juan Rivera hit back-to-back singles, and then Chris Widger hit a single to left field that rolled under Jose Leon's glove for an error.
Leon, making his first major-league start in left field, chased after the ball as Johnson scored. Rivera moved to third base and scored when reliever Travis Driskill threw a wild pitch.
The ball bounced underneath catcher Geronimo Gil, who has spent too much time of late running to the backstop.
The Yankees could hardly recognize the Orioles at that point. These teams split their first 12 games this season, but this time they looked like two ships passing in the night.
New York moved 40 games over .500 and lowered its magic number to clinch another American League East title to eight. The Orioles lost their 81st game, meaning they would need to win their final 17 to reach their goal of a .500 finish.
They were at .500 on Aug. 23, but to Mora and his teammates, that feels like light-years ago.
Opponent:Boston Red Sox
Site:Fenway Park, Boston
TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (14-7, 3.34) vs. Red Sox's Casey Fossum (4-3, 3.09)