BALTIMORE, JUNE 17 -- Perspective can be everything. The Baltimore Orioles' current view of the baseball world is troublesome. Jeff Ballard's is a lot worse.

Ballard led American League left-handers in wins last season, but he still can claim only one victory this season after he and the Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, this afternoon in front of 47,534 at Memorial Stadium.

The Orioles have lost five in a row -- as many as they've dropped consecutively all season -- and they will start the new week facing Roger Clemens as the Red Sox try to sweep the four-game series. Ballard, who was 18-8 last season and 9-2 after 13 starts, is 1-7 after as many trips to the mound this season.

The Orioles today held a lead for the first time since Tuesday, but they could not make it stick and lost for the sixth time in seven games. The Red Sox overcame a 2-0, first-inning deficit with a three-run home run by Carlos Quintana in the third and three runs in the seventh. The Orioles got solo home runs from Craig Worthington in the seventh and Cal Ripken in the eighth.

"I think the key to the ball game was the first inning," Orioles Manager Frank Robinson said. "We put two runs up on the board and could have done a lot more damage, but we didn't."

This game served as another example of opportunities wasted and bad pitches at bad times. In the first inning the Orioles had two runs across, runners on first and second with none out and got nothing more.

Ballard pitched well, but the Red Sox sent one of his fastballs into the seats, and the Orioles never recovered. That happened much less often a season ago, when the Orioles were 35-28 at this point, four games up on the rest of the AL East. This year they are 29-34 and eight games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.

"Last year things escalated quicker than we'd thought," Robinson said of the rebuilding of the team. "This year it's not gone as quickly as we thought it would after last year."

Ballard's problems are an exaggerated microcosm of the team's troubles. Before today he was 0-2 in five starts at home, but his earned run average was a very respectable 3.03. The Orioles have scored three or fewer runs in eight of his 13 starts. Today, by the time they got the fourth and fifth runs, Ballard was in the showers.

"It's past frustration," he said. "I was frustrated three starts ago."

The warm and sultry day started wonderfully for Ballard and the Orioles. Wade Boggs (two hits) singled to start the game, but Jody Reed hit into a double play and Mike Greenwell flied out to left. In the bottom half of the inning, Steve Finley walked, Mike Devereaux singled and both scored on Randy Milligan's double to right-center. That made it 2-0, and the Orioles were off, right?


Tettleton walked but Boston catcher Tony Pena jumped on Joe Orsulak's bunt and forced Milligan at third. Greg Harris (6-3) then struck out Ripken and got Worthington to bounce out.

Harris said it took him a couple of innings to adjust to the mound. He appeared to do fine, for the Orioles did not score on him again until the Red Sox were ahead by 6-2 in the seventh.

"I knew {the mound} was high, but I didn't think it was that steep," Harris said. "Once I solved that problem, then everything was back to normal."

After retiring Dwight Evans to start the fourth, Ballard gave up three straight hits. Ellis Burks and Pena singled, and Quintana blasted Ballard's pitch into the left field stands for a 3-2 lead.

"The way things are going this year, it's always one thing or another on every start," Ballard said. "The seven losses could have been 10. On the other hand, if things had gone well, I could be 8-2 or 7-3 . . . .500 at the worst, but that hasn't happened."

Ballard left with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh. Brian Holton relieved and went 3-0, then 3-1 on Reed, who laced a three-run double to right-center.

"He's not going to let a guy my size {5 feet 9, 165 pounds} walk and I'm not going to go out of the park with it," Reed said of Holton's fastball down the middle. "Seven times out of 10, I probably would ground out."

With the Orioles down by 6-2, Worthington homered to lead off the seventh. With one out Bill Ripken beat out an infield hit, prompting Boston Manager Joe Morgan to replace Haris with Dennis Lamp. Finley doubled and Devereaux brought in Ripken with a sacrifice fly. Milligan then walked. Tettleton might have brought a run home but his smash up the middle was knocked down by Lamp. That loaded the bases but Orsulak popped out.

Against Jeff Gray in the eighth inning, Cal Ripken hit his first homer since May 30 to make it 6-5. With two out in the ninth, Milligan walked and Morgan brought in left-hander Rob Murphy to face Tettleton, who represented the winning run for the Orioles.

"Tettleton's been hitting lefty for three days," Morgan said of the switch-hitter. "I had a feeling he could hit a home run left-handed, but not right-handed. It was Murphy's best fastball in a long, long time."

Three Gargantuan swings later, Tettleton and the Orioles were done.