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Rest for the weary

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON - For the next three days, most of the Orioles can forget about baseball and concentrate on other aspects of their lives. Their only representative in the All-Star Game, closer George Sherrill, won't have that luxury, but the rest of them could use the mental escape.

They were in a rush to get started yesterday, showering and dressing quickly before scattering across the country. The post-game meal was inhaled more than it was chewed. Clothing and equipment were stuffed into bags. Not being required to wear a jacket on a travel day cut a few more precious seconds off their departure time.

A 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park stung like all the others, but at least they could put some distance between themselves and another failed Sunday - and the latest blow to their season.

"After [93] games, it's always a good time for a break," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I don't care if you're in first, second or last; it's a long first 3 1/2 months. We're going to enjoy it."

The Orioles (45-48) have lost seven of their past eight games, leaving them in sole possession of last place in the American League East. They are three games below .500 for the second time this season, and the first since June 1.

"When you look at it from that standpoint," Roberts said, "maybe it's not a bad time for us."

Shut out for eight innings, the Orioles broke through against closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Aubrey Huff's two-out single scored Roberts and moved Adam Jones to third, but Melvin Mora lined out to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, leaving him with 11 runners stranded on the day.

"We're down 2-0 with one strike to get beat here against a guy that's going to the All-Star Game, and I think you saw how we battled," manager Dave Trembley said. "We will never give in 1 inch at any time to anybody at any time. It doesn't grind me the wrong way; it doesn't grind these guys the wrong way. What it does is make us better, and I think what that's done is make this team earn respect.

"We play our hearts out and give everything we have, win, lose or draw. All the time."

Since Daniel Cabrera's complete-game victory over the Kansas City Royals on July 2, Orioles starters have posted a 6.32 ERA in 10 games. It actually went down from 7.52 before yesterday, with Cabrera surrendering one earned run in 4 1/3 innings, but his early exit and high pitch count continued a disturbing trend.

Cabrera (6-5) allowed at least two runners each inning and left with a 2-0 deficit. He gave up six hits, walked six, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.

"I had a hard time throwing strikes," said Cabrera, who is 2-10 lifetime against the Red Sox.

Trembley went to his bullpen after a one-out walk to Sean Casey in the fifth, the 105th pitch from Cabrera, who nailed Kevin Youkilis in the left arm before facing his last batter. Youkilis left the game with a bruised triceps.

"He made pitches when he had to, but you know his pitch count got way up," Trembley said. "He really competed and didn't give in."

J.D. Drew's first-inning double scored Pedroia, who reached on an infield hit and took second base on shortstop Freddie Bynum's throwing error. Pedroia increased the lead in the fourth on a one-out, bases-loaded fielder's choice grounder to Bynum, who double-clutched before throwing to second for the force.

The Orioles stranded 13 runners but they still had a chance to tie the score or go ahead in the ninth. "We battled like crazy, we gave ourselves some chances, we just couldn't come up with a hit," Roberts said.

The outcome left the Orioles with 14 straight losses on Sundays since defeating the Seattle Mariners on April 6. Perhaps that, too, will be forgotten over the next three days.

"I really haven't talked about it, but I'm aware of it," Trembley said. "I'd certainly like to get rid of it. I have too many friends e-mailing me and reminding me about it."


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