BALTIMORE -- The latest test for Daniel Cabrera wound up incomplete at best. Baltimore's starter returned Saturday from a two-week absence due to an injury concern and a six-game suspension and wound up with his second straight dismal outing. Cabrera was wild and left after three-plus innings in a 5-1 loss to Oakland in the second game of a doubleheader. Game 1 was rained out.

"Obviously, the tone of the game was set in the first inning. We pitched behind," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We were probably fortunate to get out of it with so little damage made. Daniel didn't have good enough command and didn't throw enough strikes. He pitched behind, and the tempo of the game was not where you wanted it to be."

Before the game, Trembley had said that he hoped to see Cabrera return at the best of his abilities. The right-hander was healthy, he said, and there was no reason why he couldn't provide his team a quality start. Trembley had vowed to watch Cabrera extra carefully, and one of his pregame comments proved prophetic in more ways that one.

"This is a big game for him mentally," Trembley said. "[He needs] to go out there and be able to establish his fastball early. I'll be interested to see what his velocity is. I'll be interested to see what his arm angle looks like. And I think we'll be able to tell right away."

And Trembley could tell immediately, but not the way he wanted. Cabrera walked Oakland's first three batters Saturday, eliciting a sarcastic round of applause every time he found the strike zone. He escaped with just a sacrifice fly in that inning and worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. Finally, he walked the first batter in the fourth and was hooked early.

Cabrera, who also gave up a home run to Jack Cust in the third inning, wound up with six walks in his brief outing. He wasn't able to make it out of the fourth inning for the second straight start and has now lost eight of his past 11 decisions. Cabrera (8-9) has worked to a 7.88 ERA since the All-Star break and may be pitching his way out of the rotation.

"I'm not sure yet," Trembley said on that topic. "I'll probably take the day off tomorrow and think about that."

"I was upset. I was trying to give us a chance," added Cabrera, who also made reference to his long layoff between starts. "I was just trying to go deep into the game to give some rest to our bullpen. They've been working a lot in the last seven days. It's frustrating when you're out in the fourth inning when you know you could do better."

Baltimore (63-78) went to rookie Alfredo Simon in the fourth, and he got a double play on the first batter he faced before giving up another solo home run to Cust. Oakland (65-77) added two runs in the fifth on a homer by Jack Hannahan and a one-run triple by Rajai Davis, and the Orioles fell to their eighth straight loss and their 15th in their past 17 games.

The Orioles couldn't take advantage of a bases-loaded situation in the second inning and hit into a rally-killing double play in the sixth. Baltimore didn't get on the scoreboard until the eighth inning and made a mental mistake to end the game. Veteran Jay Payton, who had drawn a walk, forgot how many outs there were and was doubled off first on a long fly ball.

Payton acknowledged that gaffe after the game and said the September strain is hard to overcome.

"It's terrible. It's hard to focus right now," he said. "Your mental focus goes. Like yesterday, I was told I'm not going to make many at-bats the rest of the season, which I've kind of figured. We've got some young guys here. You battle. I feel like I've been swinging the bat good. I've been hitting the ball at guys left and right. Mentally, it gets straining to sit out there and play defense forever. It takes its toll, and right now, I think a lot of guys are having a tough time with the mental aspect."

Trembley made a similar comment about his team, and the phenomenon directly about his starting pitching. Trembley specifically said that Cabrera was more consistent velocity-wise and showed more sink than he had in recent starts, but Trembley also said that it's hard for the individual players to concentrate when the starter sets a substandard pace to the game.

"When you don't get good starting pitching, it looks like you're not playing with a whole lot of life and enthusiasm," he said, echoing a recent theme affecting the Orioles. "The innings have a tendency to drag on and on and on. I think you saw somewhat of a momentum change when [reliever Lance] Cormier came in. He works fast; he throws strikes. It's very difficult to establish any kind of tempo or momentum to the game when it seems like you're out in the field forever."

Baltimore's eight-game skid is the longest the team has had since a nine-game losing streak in August of last year. It's the way they've been losing that has been more distressing, though, as the pitching has rarely given the hitters a chance to win. The Orioles have walked 63 batters in the past eight games and have topped the seven-walk mark seven times in that span.

"This is the worst I've ever experienced in my big league career. Honestly," said Payton. "Just the last 2 1/2 or three weeks, what we're going through right now, I've never been through anything like this. It's part of the game. If you get through it and battle through it, in the end, it will make you stronger and make you better if you learn how to deal with it."