Indians 3, Orioles 1

It is a losing streak that can be seen in Manager Lee Mazzilli's slumped shoulders, in Sal Fasano's distraught face and in Sammy Sosa's at-bats. It is a losing stretch that threatens to turn a once-promising season into a second-half survival for third place. It is not just the sweltering heat that has made Baltimore fans uncomfortable. They fidget in their seats because of their beloved Orioles' recent slump. The Orioles, 3-1 losers to the Cleveland Indians on Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, have won once since June 22 and have lost nine of their past 11 games.

But even in the middle of a losing streak, there are few who can keep the Baltimore Orioles' mighty offense quiet. On Friday it was a mountain of a man, with his cap tipped sideways hip-hop style, who made Baltimore's offense appear ordinary. C.C. Sabathia turned in 72/3 splendid innings and helped continue Baltimore's fall from the ranks of the elite.

Perhaps the Orioles thought they had left their problems behind in June. Baltimore went 12-15 and lost eight of its last 10 games in the month.

"We're still in the race," said Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, who yielded three earned runs in seven innings. "We're just going through some bad moments. All teams have these slumps throughout the year."

Clearly, pitching has been a problem. No Orioles pitcher had been credited with a quality start in the 10 games prior to Friday. Baltimore starters went 1-6 with a 7.51 ERA in that 10-game span.

But the Orioles lost even on a night when Lopez gave them the quality start they had lacked. Lopez (7-4) lost for only the second time since May 25.

Lopez cruised through the first five innings but the Indians struck for three runs in the sixth. The inning changed dramatically when Ronnie Belliard reached on an infield single with no outs and men on first and second base.

On a 1-2 count, Belliard barely struck Lopez's pitch and sent a high chopper to third baseman Chris Gomez, who did not make the throw in time to first base.

"If that ball hits in front of the plate he is out," Fasano said.

Baltimore's recent slide has some players creating new words for the team's run of bad luck.

"That's the flukeness of baseball," Fasano said, "if that's a word."

Two runs in the inning scored on sacrifice flies and another on a double by Josh Bard.

Baltimore was stumped by Sabathia. The first five hitters in the order -- Brian Roberts, Luis Matos, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Sosa -- were just 1 for 16 against the 6-foot-7 left-hander.

"I thought he was as good as he's been all year," Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge said. "The tempo was great. He really went after it. It was a great effort."

Some of the offense's woes must certainly fall on Sosa. It is a mystery how quickly he has lost his mighty bat. The outfielder, who had 35 home runs in just 126 games last season, could head into the all-star break with nine home runs. With the left-handed Sabathia on the mound, Mazzilli put Sosa back into the fifth spot in the lineup for the first time since Monday. Again Sosa was hitless.

Sosa has just one hit in his previous 30 at-bats and has hit the ball out of the infield only once in his past 16 times at the plate. He seemed particularly perplexed by Sabathia. Sosa popped out to third in his first at-bat and struck out the next two times up. His average has dwindled to .227.

After a strikeout in the sixth inning, Sosa was booed by a majority of fans. Sosa had enjoyed his first few months as an Oriole, when the fans had yet to cause him much grief. Now those fans seem impatient.

As he walked out of the clubhouse, Sosa carried a videotape of his at-bats under his arm. Perhaps that tape may hold the key to getting out of his slump.

"I think it's eating him up that he's not living up to what he thinks he can do," Mazzilli said. "When you're not living up to your standards, guys get like that."

The loss was particularly painful since both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees lost. Baltimore continues to be 21/2 games out of first place and is only 31/2 games ahead of the Yankees. For all of New York's problems, the Orioles have yet to distance themselves from their rivals from the Bronx.

Eli Marrero, who doubled and scored Baltimore's only run in the 2nd inning, shatters his bat in the 4th on a pitch from Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia.