OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was in typical style that the Orioles put an official end to the first half of the season last night.
They fell behind by at least three runs before the fourth inning fothe 25th time this year -- and their bullpen is already on the verge of being overworked despite a three-day break for the All-Star Game.
On the night they reactivated Dwight Evans and said goodbye tKevin Hickey for the second time, the Orioles played their 81st game in spectacularly boring fashion, losing 8-1 to the Oakland A's.
It was so bad that the first major-league home run for ChitMartinez might not have meant as much to the Orioles as an over-the-fence wallop hit by Glenn Davis in batting practice.
Jeff Robinson, the starting pitcher, retired only one hitter and leftrailing 5-0 before much of the audience of 34,105 had settled in.
In short, it was U-G-L-Y.
"I swear, I can't stand to go see the same movie twice," saimanager John Oates. "I never could understand why you'd go again once you've seen a movie.
"And now I keep seeing the same thing over and over again,said Oates. "We have to develop pitching and consistency. You can't do muchwhen you're consistently down by three or four runs.
"I don't want to start managing where I have to send tonight'starter out to the bullpen tomorrow," said Oates. "You can't keep doing that."
But the Orioles could do it tonight or tomorrow afternoon witRobinson. Oates decided the All-Star break afforded him the opportunity to go with 10 pitchers at least temporarily -- so last night he used all of his relievers except Mike Flanagan.
"I don't think Jeff was very happy with himself," said Oates. "Hdidn't make very many pitches while he was out there."
Robinson (4-7) had been the Orioles' most consistent starter thlast month, but there wasn't any consolation about this one. "I'm not one to make excuses," said Robinson. "And even if I was, I wouldn't have one.
"I just didn't do my job, and they [the A's] did theirs," saiRobinson. "Usually the first couple of innings are the most important to me. The way I look at it, if I get by the first few innings -- in my mind, the game's over.
"If I can get to that point I feel like I can dominate the game," saiRobinson, who was hardly the dominating type last night. He walked Rickey Henderson on four pitches to start the game, a sure sign of disaster.
Three straight hits, a wild pitch, a fly ball, a walk and two morhits followed before Oates mercifully got Robinson out of the game. This wasn't as bad as the nine-run drubbing Jeff Ballard took in Cleveland a few weeks ago, but it was close.
Oates gave Robinson every chance to escape, but by thinning's end he found that the Orioles had virtually no way out. Dave Stewart, who has struggled against everybody this year and usually has trouble against the Orioles, was in charge throughout the seven innings he worked.
"You give him five or six runs early and he's going to be tough,said Oates. "He didn't have to worry about walking guys, so he just came after us."
In other words it was impossible to tell if Stewart was good, othe Orioles bad, but the prior records give a pretty good hint.
Evans returned to the starting lineup as the designated hitteand didn't hit the ball in four at-bats -- two strikeouts, two walks. "It was a little strange," admitted Evans.
"The first time up there I didn't pick the ball up until it was 15 feet away. But each at-bat you pick up something different. It'll take a little while, but it'll come."
In the meantime, Davis, who has resumed taking batting practicafter being inactive for more than three months, gave himself a lift in a pregame workout. The injured slugger took about 30 swings against batting practice pitcher Sammy Snider -- and actually hit one ball over the fence.
"It felt good," said Davis, whose spirits have obviously improvein the last week, "but we still have to take it slowly. The doctors remain extremely cautious with Davis,one of their concerns being possible damage to the rotator cuff.
" I worked with a fungo bat for a week, then with a fungo bat for a week, then with a a light regular bat for another wee,and then my own bat for a week," said Davis. " Then it was decided that it was time to take it out onto the field."
The fact that he's scheduled to take batting practice every i evidence that Davis has made a lot of progress while trying to recover from neck and shoulder injuries.Any activity from Davis is considered a good sign,but he is still a long way from making a contribution.
And the Orioles are still a long way from being consistently competitive.
When they activated Evans yesterday, the Orioles cleared a spot the roster by designating Hickey for assignment.
The lefthanded reliever,who was released in spring training anthen signed to a Double A contract,was 1-0 with a 9.00 earned run average in 19 games(14 innings) for the Orioles.
The club has 10 days to try to make a deal for Hickey,after which he would have to go on waivers for the purpose of granting him an unconditional release.
Martinez greeted reliever Gene Nelson with his first major-league home run in the eighth inning last night. The ball carried well over the wall in left-centerfield.
Martinez, who will be in the starting lineup against Bob Welctonight, is 6-for-14 (.429) since joining the Orioles last Friday.
After Ben McDonald faces the A's tonight, Bob Milacki (4-3, 4.35and Roy Smith (4-2, 5.21) are scheduled to pitch the last two games of the series here against the A's.