BALTIMORE (AP) – Unfortunately for the Minnesota Twins, the Baltimore Orioles have embraced their role as spoilers.

Daniel Cabrera took a four-hitter into the seventh inning, Brian Roberts homered and drove in three runs, and the Orioles blunted Minnesota’s charge to the playoffs with a 7-3 victory on Friday night.

Torii Hunter scored twice for the Twins, who dropped 11/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central.

In the wild-card race, Minnesota remained 5 games in front of Chicago, which lost 11-6 to Seattle.

The Orioles are headed toward a ninth straight losing season, but they aren’t backing down against the contenders. Baltimore beat Detroit on Thursday and followed that with a solid performance against Minnesota.

“I think you can see the intensity level pick up a little bit when you’re playing teams that are in the race,” Roberts said. “It’s not that you’re not trying in Tampa or wherever, but the motivation factor is a little bit more difficult down there. For us to come out and play as well we have against contending teams, it’s great. We’ll make them work for whatever they’re going to get.”

Nick Markakis had two RBIs and Miguel Tejada had three hits for the Orioles.

, who have won five of six. Tejada has a career-high 205 hits and is six short of matching Cal Ripken’s club record, set in 1983.

Cabrera (8-10) allowed three runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out eight and walking three. The right-hander earned his first victory since Aug. 25 and improved to 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA lifetime against the Twins.

“We faced a tough pitcher out there. Cabrera is one of those guys who has great stuff, just absolutely great stuff,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve seen when he’s been really, really good and we’ve seen him when he’s misfired a little bit, probably like everybody else. Tonight, he didn’t misfire very much.”

Cabrera has struggled with his control for much of the season, so the Twins decided to work the count and force him to throw strikes. Cabrera did just that.

“Our plan was to go out there and try to make him throw pitches, but he was ahead of everybody,” Hunter said. “He kind of busted up our plan.”

Minnesota cut a four-run deficit to 5-3 and had runners on second and third in the seventh before rookie Brian Burres retired Nick Punto on a grounder for the third out.

Roberts and Melvin Mora hit RBI-singles off Juan Rincon to make it 7-3 in the eighth, dooming the Twins to a second straight loss for only the second time in September.

“We had a shot, just tried to keep the game close,” Hunter said. “Then they scored two more runs.”

Minnesota starter Carlos Silva (10-14) gave up five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his previous three starts, but he’s 0-3 with a 8.47 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season.

After Minnesota’s Luis Castillo was thrown out at the plate in the first, singles by Roberts, Tejada and Jay Gibbons put Baltimore up 1-0 in the bottom of the inning.

An RBI-single by Jason Bartlett tied it in the second, but the Orioles scored three runs in their half. After Roberts hit a two-run homer, Mora singled and scored on a double by Markakis.

Baltimore made it 5-1 in the sixth. Jeff Fiorentino hit a leadoff double and Markakis ended Silva’s night with a two-out RBI-double.

The Twins chased Cabrera in the seventh, but were left wanting more. Rondell White hit an RBI-single, and Cabrera struck out Jason Tyner before walking Bartlett. Burres gave up a run-scoring single to Castillo, and a double steal put the tying run at second. But Punto couldn’t deliver.

B>Notes:P> Markakis snapped a 2-for-19 slump with his second-inning double. … Silva has allowed at least five earned runs in 14 of his 29 starts. … Roberts’ three RBIs tied a season high. He did it once before.

AP-ES-09-23-06 0004EDT

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