OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Bash Brothers took the night off, so the struggling Baltimore Orioles took the opportunity to test the boundaries of the Oakland Coliseum themselves.
Chris Hoiles and Cal Ripken each had three hits and each had a long home run to support a strong performance by right-hander Ben McDonald, as the Orioles scored a 6-3 victory last night and evened the four-game series at a game apiece.
McDonald pitched eight innings and gave up three runs on four hits to earn his fourth victory of the year, but Hoiles made it possible with his tie-breaking homer in the sixth, and Ripken made it stick with a two-run shot in the seventh. Gregg Olson pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save.
It was Ripken's 19th home run of the season, putting him just one away from his 10th consecutive 20-homer season. It was the fifth of the year for Hoiles, who matched a career high with his three-hit performance.
But it was the first time this year that the Orioles have come away a winner in Oakland, where they were swept in a two-game series in May and lost a laugher in the series opener Thursday night.
"A lot of teams have had trouble in this ballpark the last few years," manager John Oates said. "You come in here and you never get a break. You're either seeing Stewart, Welch or Moore. It's tough."
McDonald didn't have fond memories of the place. He lasted just two innings in an 11-3 loss to the A's here on May 7 and got off to a rocky start again last night, but regained control of the game after Oakland scored twice in the first inning.
He went on to strike out a season-high eight batters in his second solid performance in three starts since returning from the disabled list.
Ripken bounced back from an 0-for-4 performance on Thursday night with a 3-for-5 game that raised his league-leading average to .348. He singled in his first at-bat and doubled the next time up before making out on a fly ball in the fifth. The home run, off A's reliever Todd Burns, was his fifth in the past 15 games.
"I don't have anything to say about Cal," Oates said. "I've already said all there is to say about him. I'd have to go and find a book of quotable quotes to come up with anything new."
The game turned on a heavily disputed play in the fourth inning that led to a pair of Orioles runs and resulted in the ejection of Oakland starter Bob Welch.
Here's what happened:
The Orioles were down by a run and had runners at second and third with two out when Mike Devereaux hit a slow chopper wide of first base. Mark McGwire fielded the ball and flipped it back to Welch in time to record the final out of the inning, but umpire Chuck Meriweather ruled that Welch had missed the base.
Both runners scored on the play, though Welch alertly wheeled and threw to the plate. Then he wheeled around to Meriweather and stated his case a bit too strongly. Before manager Tony La Russa could intervene, Meriweather had given Welch the rest of the night off.
The video replay showed that the toss from McGwire clearly beat Devereaux, but there was no camera angle that showed conclusively whether Welch's foot made contact with the base.
"I was right there," Devereaux said. "To me, it looked like he missed it by a couple of inches."
Welch may not have been long for the game, anyway. He gave up seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings before unwillingly turning the game over to left-hander Curt Young.
"Cal Ripken Sr. told me, 'Wouldn't you know it, the one night in three years he didn't have his good stuff, he gets thrown out of the game,' " Oates said. "He has had a lot of success against us."
Welch won 27 games and a Cy Young Award in 1990, but he -- like teammate Dave Stewart -- has found the going much tougher this year.
He entered last night's game trying to snap out of a three-start slump in which he had given up 16 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings, raising his ERA from 3.17 to 3.98. He also took the mound with a 7-2 career record and a 2.71 lifetime ERA against the Orioles, but struggled from the outset.
Devereaux walked to lead off the game, and Welch gave up back-to-back singles to Joe Orsulak and Ripken to load the bases with no one out. But the Orioles could only squeeze one run out of an opportunity to put the A's at a serious disadvantage.
Designated hitter Sam Horn gave the Orioles the lead with a sacrifice fly, but Randy Milligan struck out looking, and Chito Martinez was called out on a check-swing third strike to end the inning.
Instead of getting a decent jump on the defending American League champions, the Orioles found themselves in a familiar position by the time they got back up to bat.
McDonald struggled in the first inning for the second start in a row, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk. But it was an improvement over his previous start, when he surrendered a three-run homer to New York Yankees outfielder Mel Hall in the first inning and went on to give up five runs on five hits and five walks in a no-decision last weekend at Yankee Stadium.