Angels 3, Orioles 1

It has become quite a mystery how an offense once feared has become so meek at the plate. It was not so long ago that the Baltimore Orioles boasted a powerful lineup that could rival any in the American League. Now it is a lineup full of holes.

Angels ace Bartolo Colon, perhaps the leading Cy Young Award hopeful in the AL, may be responsible for Wednesday's 3-1 Orioles loss to Los Angeles, but the Baltimore offensive slump has existed for quite some time now. At one point early in the season, Baltimore ranked near the top of the AL in runs scored. Entering Wednesday's game, the Orioles ranked 10th. Baltimore's batting average has dropped 19 points since the all-star break and the Orioles are ranked 26th in the majors in runs scored during that time.

Since the break Baltimore has scored three runs or fewer in a whopping 19 of the 38 games played, the same number as the Washington Nationals.

"I just think it's a failure to get one guy hot," Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "You got nine guys in the lineup. You don't expect nine guys to scuffle. Someone is going to pay for it sooner or later. But that doesn't make me feel good at all. Sooner or later they're going to get their hits. We need them to do it sooner than later. Time is creeping up on us."

What has happened? The easy answer is that Brian Roberts (37 for 152 since the break, a .243 average) became mortal again, Melvin Mora couldn't possibly live up to the season he had last year -- he hit .340 -- and Sammy Sosa hasn't produced as the Orioles thought he would. Four Baltimore regulars, including Sosa, Mora and Roberts, are hitting less than .250 since the break.

It is almost inconceivable to think that Roberts's batting average is nearing .300. For most of the season he had been among the league leaders, but the second baseman has just one multi-hit game since Aug. 9. Though an inexperienced pitching staff has taken quite a beating this season, a considerable amount of blame for Baltimore's collapse must go to an underachieving offense.

"It's frustrating when you have a hitting team and you can't score as many runs as we did in the beginning," Mora said. "There's been a lot of changes, a lot of new guys [since last year]. Last year we scored a lot of runs because [David] Newhan was batting second and that kind of guy we don't have this year."

The Orioles have Newhan but he hasn't been the same, either. His average has stayed around .200 for most of the season.

At the end of the eighth inning, with the Orioles trailing by just three runs, a crowd of 27,586 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards began to disappear into the parking lot. When the offense boasted gaudy numbers, it was unusual for any fan to leave his or her seat under such conditions.

After a good start under Perlozzo, the Orioles have taken a step back. Baltimore has lost five consecutive games, all against playoff contending teams.

The Angels took the lead in the fifth inning with three hits -- that scored three runs -- against Orioles starter Erik Bedard. The Angels did not score again, but they didn't need to.

Colon was dominant on Wednesday, allowing just one run in 82/3 innings. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez retired the final batter of the game.

Colon allowed just one hit through the first four innings -- and only five total -- and Baltimore did not have a runner reach second base until the fifth inning. The only two Baltimore rallies were ended with lineout double plays.

Though he has often been criticized for his portly physique, Colon has finally earned the four-year, $51 million contract he signed prior to the 2004 season. He is 17-6 with a 3.34 ERA for the first-place Angels. Since the second half of last season, Colon has excelled, winning 29 games.

Perlozzo chose Wednesday for Rafael Palmeiro's return to the lineup partly because of his limited success against Colon. At this point, Perlozzo is grasping at whatever will help his team get started offensively. Palmeiro entered the game a modest 8 for 30 (.267) with two home runs against Colon. He was hitless against Colon this time.

"You would figure," Palmeiro said, "that we would do a little better offensively."

Baltimore outfielder Eric Byrnes dives for, and misses, a foul pop fly by Adam Kennedy of Los Angeles. The Orioles lost their fifth straight game.