Yankees 12, Orioles 3

-- With the game and perhaps the season slipping, Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli, so frustrated by a botched run-down play in the third inning, summoned the entire infield for a summit on the mound. Mazzilli, who rarely visits the mound unless he is making a pitching change, pleaded with his players to keep their focus and their desire.

"Just stay positive," Mazzilli told them. "Let's bear down and stay in the game. This is a long season. You have to grind it out. You have to get going."

Not even the manager's words could save them. The Orioles allowed four more runs in the inning after Mazzilli's speech and the game turned into a blowout soon thereafter. Baltimore, after a 12-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday, is fading at such a rapid pace that it has even ceased to be a first-half success story. The Orioles have lost seven consecutive road games and 12 of 14 on the road. They are five games above .500 for the first time since April 24.

The question certainly must be asked: Did the Baltimore front office miss its window of opportunity to make a major trade to help keep the team in contention? And is Baltimore playing for its season in the four-game series against the Boston Red Sox that starts on Thursday?

Previously, one Orioles official said the team's place in the standings near the July 31 trading deadline would determine whether the front office would sacrifice some of its younger players in trades in order to acquire help for this year's team.

"If they do something, then they do something," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "If not, we have a good team."

Baltimore certainly needs pitching help. It seems unlikely that the Orioles can survive the second half of the season without reinforcements to the rotation.

For the third consecutive game, a Baltimore starter did not make it past the fourth inning. Also for the third consecutive game, the Orioles trailed, 6-0.

None of the starters threw more than 58 pitches in those three games. Reliever James Baldwin threw more innings (61/3) during that stretch than Baltimore's three starters combined (52/3).

The Orioles are clearly reeling and in danger of falling out of second place in the AL East. Only a half game separates the Orioles and Yankees. Roberts said that at this point the team has stopped looking at the standings.

"We're very lucky to be in the eastern division at this point because of the records of everyone else," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "We really never got ourselves out of it. I'm pleased. I feel we're lucky, but we do have to take advantage of it."

New York certainly took advantage of Baltimore in the two-game sweep. The Orioles committed three errors in the first three innings that led to five of New York's runs.

"You can't overcome mistake after mistake after mistake against good teams," Roberts said. "They should bury you. That's what we would want to do."

Rodrigo Lopez, pitching for the first time in his career on three days' rest because Baltimore has no other viable options, appeared unnerved by all the mistakes. He winced when a ground ball went between first baseman Chris Gomez's legs to ignite the third-inning rally. He cursed when shortstop Miguel Tejada's throw was low to home on the rundown play that scored Derek Jeter.

He tried to snap-catch a baseball thrown by home plate umpire Tim Timmons after allowing a three-run home run to Gary Sheffield in the fourth inning, but missed and the ball fell to the ground.

Lopez's final act of frustration occurred after being taken out of the game in the fourth. He threw his hat and glove against the bench while walking into the dugout.

"I just made a lot of mistakes and wrong decisions," Lopez said.

Baltimore will ask 24-year-old Daniel Cabrera to provide stability Thursday. Though he is clearly the most talented starter, Cabrera is also the most inconsistent and he has not done well against Boston. Cabrera is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA against the Red Sox in three starts in his career.

How Baltimore reaches the all-star break may determine what happens in the second half of the season. The pressure is certainly mounting.

"This is a big series," Roberts said. "I think everybody knows that."

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, left, and pitcher Rodrigo Lopez discuss their mutual frustration as things fall apart in Yankees' 5-run 3rd inning.