BOSTON, JUNE 24 -- The Baltimore Orioles today went from not hitting with men on base to not hitting at all.

They got only five hits -- three by shortstop Cal Ripken -- in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the first time they have been shut out at Fenway Park since Aug. 15, 1982.

The Orioles' fourth consecutive loss, their fifth on a six-game road trip that concluded today, left them a season-worst 9 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East. They have lost 10 of 12 games and 11 of 14.

"We're facing a long, uphill climb," said first baseman Randy Milligan. "But if Toronto can do it, hey, we can do it."

That would be the Blue Jays, who last season trailed by 10 games before winning the AL East. Today a victory over New York allowed Toronto to remain in first place by a half-game over Boston. The two teams meet in a four-game series that begins Monday night.

And Toronto seems to thrive at Fenway Park, where it has won 15 consecutive games. Baltimore has lost 20 of its last 23 games here.

Then there is the matter of offense. The Blue Jays were a much better offensive team last season than the Orioles have been so far this season.

For example, the Orioles: Came into today's game having lost five one-run games in seven days, a week of frustration unparalleled in club history. (The team's research department did find a pair of eight-day stretches in which the Orioles lost five one-run games -- in April-May 1973 and in May 1966.) Today's loss means the Orioles' last six losses have come by a combined seven runs. None of the losses was of the slugfest variety. Three of the five one-run games were decided by 4-3, the others by 5-4 and 6-5. Are hitless in their last 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and five for 49. Have one RBI in their last 24 innings, all at Fenway Park, which is supposed to be a hitter's paradise. Have an overall team batting average of .248, a .247 average with runners in scoring position and a .195 average with the bases loaded. Have not hit a home run with a runner on base since June 9. Have had a combined 76 base runners in their last five games and scored a total of 12 runs. Lead the major leagues with 560 runners left on base.

Today's effort, which included seven runners left on base (two at third base, three at second), put to waste a fine performance by pitcher Bob Milacki (3-4).

Manager Frank Robinson said the right-hander would have been a candidate for removal from the starting rotation if he did not pitch well today. Milacki, who has been bothered by weakness in his right shoulder, allowed two runs on nine hits in 7 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter.

"I'm gradually getting stronger," said Milacki, who averaged less than five innings in his previous 10 starts and compiled a 6.51 earned run average. "Now, I want to get consistent."

Orioles hitters feel the same way, but they say a one-game splurge might get them going.

"We need one of those 10-1 games," third baseman Craig Worthington said. "We've been coming close, but we've been coming up short."

Said Milligan: "It seems like everyone wants to break the jinx. Then you put pressure on yourself and don't do it."

There are plenty of other explanations. But Robinson said the bottom line is this: "People are not doing the job we thought they were capable of doing. We have to ride things out a little bit."

There isn't much else the Orioles can do.

"Do you have any suggestions?" Robinson asked. "Anyone can pose the question. We've been looking to improve the team all season. It's not that simple. If it was that easy, believe me, we would have done it."

Remember, the Orioles are very cautious when it comes to upsetting their long-term goal of rebuilding a team that hit rock bottom in 1988.

"We're not in a panic situation," Robinson said.

But Worthington said: "We're not playing good at all."

An exception is Ripken. He has four consecutive three-hit games and 13 hits in 17 at-bats. He has an eight-game hitting streak (16 for 33, .485) and in his last 11 games is batting .467 (21 for 45).

On the fielding side, because Expos shortstop Spike Owen's errorless streak ended Saturday at 68 games, Ripken's 67-game skein is the longest active one by a major league shortstop. The club record is 69, by Mark Belanger in 1979, and the AL record is 72, by Detroit's Ed Brinkman in 1972.

"He had another nice day," Robinson said. "He's swinging the bat much better now. I'm glad to see it."

Ripken, who was batting a season-low .209 before this hot streak started, has raised his average to .253. He averaged .257 from 1987 to 1989.

"I don't want to analyze it," he said. "I'd just as soon leave it alone."

His second-inning single was part of the Orioles' best opportunity of the day against starter Greg Harris (7-3). Joe Orsulak singled with one out and moved to second on Ripken's hit. After Brad Komminsk struck out, Worthington walked to load the bases. Mike Devereaux grounded into a fielder's choice.

Ripken was stranded after doubling with two out in the fourth and again with one out in the seventh.

Boston took a 1-0 lead in the seventh when Dwight Evans hit a full-count pitch over the Green Monster for his third homer in two days.

The Red Sox made it 2-0 in the eighth. Jody Reed forced Wade Boggs at second with a poor bunt, but went to third on a single by Mike Greenwell that finished Milacki. Brian Holton walked Tom Brunansky, and Evans scored Reed with a flyout.

The Orioles have 12 games remaining before the all-star break, three at home starting Tuesday night against Cleveland.

"If we can knock three or four games off {the deficit} by the all-star break, we should be all right to start the second half," Robinson said. "That's the way I look at it. That's the way we have to go about it."