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Slumping O's drop finale to Red Sox

Slumping O's drop finale to Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Orioles have three off-days coming up, and they may need every one of them to get their season back in gear. Baltimore bottomed out with a hard-fought 2-1 loss against the Red Sox on Sunday, an outcome that marked the team's seventh setback in its past eight games and sent the Orioles three games under .500 for just the second time all season.

Baltimore had previously hit that nadir on June 1 and wound up winning five of the next six games to get back to the break-even mark. July's been a different story. The Orioles have now lost three straight series heading into the All-Star break and have seen their starting pitcher knocked out before the end of the fifth inning in three of the past five games.

"You go through these stretches even when there's not a break coming," said leadoff man Brian Roberts. "You've just got to keep plugging away and keep going. But when you look at it from that standpoint, maybe it's not a bad time for us."

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"When the season was starting, I know a lot of people didn't think we were going to [be competitive]," added Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera, who was knocked out early on Sunday. "Now we're only three games behind .500. We've been struggling for the last couple weeks, but the game is over. We're going to take three days off, come back and play again."

The loss also knocked the Orioles into last place in the American League East for the first time since June 13, but manager Dave Trembley preferred to emphasize his team's resiliency over the current cold streak.

"We will never give in one inch at any time to anybody," Trembley said in an extended diatribe. "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. It doesn't rub me the wrong way that people keep asking that question. What it does is annoys me that people don't see it for what it is. We play our hearts out and give everything we have, win, lose or draw -- all the time."

The Orioles (45-48) certainly fit that description Sunday, when they pushed runners to scoring position in several innings but didn't get their first run until the ninth inning. Baltimore wound up pushing the potential tying run to third base against Boston closer Jon Papelbon, but the right-hander earned his 28th save on a liner to second base by Melvin Mora.

That ending was fitting when you consider the rest of Mora's game. The veteran third baseman -- who went into the game batting .355 with runners in scoring position -- made the last out in five different innings. Mora stranded 11 baserunners in all, including a bases-loaded groundout in the fifth inning and three groundouts with two men on base.

"I don't have [anything] to say," said Mora before a question could even be asked. "Five at-bats I left guys on base."

The Red Sox (57-40) had their own woes on offense, but they managed to score early and seize control. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia singled and moved to second on an error in the first inning before scoring on a double by J.D. Drew. Three innings later, Pedroia reached on a bases-loaded fielder's choice to send home the home team's second run.

Cabrera didn't have his best control on Sunday, but he managed to stifle the Red Sox at several points. The right-hander stranded two runners in both the second and third innings, then he walked three batters in the fourth and left the bases loaded. Cabrera (6-5) hit one batter and walked another in the fifth before Trembley pulled him.

"He had runners every inning. He had to pitch out of jams," said Trembley. "He made pitches when he had to, but you know his pitch count got way up. He really competed [and] didn't give in. Our bullpen did a very nice job. We had guys up, [and] we needed one hit, one pitch a little different. This was a tough one to lose. I thought we played our hearts out."

"I just went through having a hard time throwing strikes," Cabrera said. "A lot of pitches close, but I didn't get it. It looked like they just missed the zone by a little bit. I didn't get the call and walked like six people. That's what's killing me."

The Orioles pushed runners to first and second in the first inning against Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka but couldn't do anything with the opportunity. The same situation came up in the third inning, and Matsuzaka (10-1) escaped again. Mora grounded out in both of those innings and hit a ball back to the box with the bases loaded in the fifth.

Baltimore also pushed two runners on base against Boston reliever Hideki Okajima in the seventh inning, but the southpaw struck out one batter and reliever Manny Delcarmen got Mora to hit into a threat-ending groundout.

"Obviously, anytime you have a one-run game or a two-run game, you're always a little something away from it being a different outcome," said Roberts of his team's many chances. "Their bullpen did a great job the second half of the game. We battled like crazy [and] we gave ourselves some chances. We just couldn't come up with a hit."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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