LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES - The face of Orioles rookie Daniel Cabrera was covered with frustration in the sixth inning last night, and the worst was yet to come.
Locked in a scoreless tie with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jose Lima, Cabrera had mishandled a fairly routine comebacker off the bat of Adrian Beltre, allowing Milton Bradley to score the game's first run.
Sensing Cabrera's disappointment, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada went to the mound, and soon the rest of the infield huddled together, perhaps to lend encouragement, perhaps to talk strategy.
Whatever they said, it was pretty much moot one pitch later, as Cabrera served up a three-run homer to Juan Encarnacion that all-but cemented another Orioles' loss, this one 5-1 before a crowd of 29,711 at Dodger Stadium.
Losing for the fifth time in six games, the Orioles fell a little closer to last place in the American League East. They came into the game in third place, sitting one game ahead of Toronto and 1 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay.
This was the Orioles' first game at Dodger Stadium since Jim Palmer tossed a four-hitter to out-pitch Sandy Koufax in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series. After winning that battle of two future Hall of Famers, the Orioles went on to sweep the series and win their first world championship.
Little did Cabrera know he would have had to pitch like a Hall of Famer to win this start. The Orioles' offense, so potent for most of the season, has hit a serious rut.
They had gone scoreless for 18 consecutive innings before Miguel Tejada hit his 10th homer of the season to make the score 4-1 in the seventh.
Trailing 5-1 in the ninth, the Orioles put two aboard against Dodgers reliever Darren Dreifort, but all that did is bring closer Eric Gagne out of the bullpen. The scoreboard started flashing "Game Over," and sure enough, Gagne recorded two outs to preserve his major league-record 77th consecutive save.
But by that time, Tejada and the rest of the offense were still trying to explain their earlier failures against Lima, the flamboyant former All-Star who came to spring training this year as a non-roster invitee.
Making his sixth start of the season, Lima (5-2) held the Orioles to one run on three hits over seven innings. And he did all that with a ridiculously low total of 68 pitches.
Cabrera (3-3) wasn't quite that dominant, but he probably deserved better after holding the Dodgers scoreless for the first five innings.
Lima retired the first nine batters he faced, breezing through the first three innings with 35 pitches.
The second time through the order, the Orioles decided to mix it up. Leadoff man Brian Roberts reached on a bunt single to start the fourth, and Melvin Mora also squared to bunt before singling through the left side of the infield.
So the Orioles had runners at first and second with the heart of their order -Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez - coming to the plate. But too often this season, that scenario hasn't amounted to much, and that's what happened again.
Tejada, mired in a 1-for-21 slump coming into the game, saw his struggles continue as he hit a bouncer toward second that Alex Cora handled to start a double play. Roberts advanced to third, but Palmeiro flied to left field, ending the inning.
As a team, the Orioles came into the game ranked second to last in the American League with a .250 average with runners in scoring position. Tejada ranked third in the AL with 49 RBIs, but with runners in scoring position, he was batting just .232 (19-for-82) after that at-bat.
Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers
Site: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Matt Riley (1-1, 6.33) vs. Dodgers' Odalis Perez (3-3, 3.01)