OAKLAND, Calif. -- Somehow it doesn't figure that the Oakland A's can win a fourth straight American League pennant with a pitching staff that has numbers almost as bad as the Orioles.
But that is the situation facing A's manager Tony La Russa, who doesn't deny that his staff needs dramatic improvement in order to win. "People look at our pitching and say 'It's going to be hard for them to win' -- and they're right," said La Russa. "We have to get better."
Despite last night's easy win, the A's go into tonight's game against the Orioles with the second worst earned run average (4.78) in the big leagues. Only the Orioles (4.91) have a higher ERA.
La Russa doesn't expect the A's to stay near the bottom of the pitching statistics, and he feels the closeness of the Western Division race could work in the A's favor.
"In the past, they [division rivals] have always been able to load up for us," said La Russa, whose team routinely drew the opposition's top starters. "This year, if we're good enough, it could be easier because you're going to have to be ready to play everybody," he said.
"It hasn't been easy for us," La Russa said of the A's physical problems early in the year. "But it's still there for us to win just as it is for several other clubs. I would say that as long as we keep our spirit there isn't anything that can happen in the second half that we can't handle."
The A's certainly haven't had any trouble handling the Orioles, especially at home. They will be going for their fifth straight win against the Orioles in the Coliseum tonight (10:35, Channel 2).
Ben McDonald (3-3, 6.00) will pitch for the Orioles, facing Oakland's Bob Welch (8-5, 3.98). Saturday afternoon, Bob Milacki (4-3, 4.35) goes for the Orioles, with Roy Smith (4-2, 5.21) slated for Sunday's 3 p.m. finale.