The Orioles entered the game with a 5.50 ERA since the first game of the homestand, and that climbed by almost half a run to 5.98.
Exclusive of the no-hitter pitched against them by Bob Milacki and three relievers, the A's have averaged 7.3 runs against Baltimore pitching, winning eight of 11 meetings.
Ballard's night started miserably when he hit Rickey Henderson with an 0-2 pitch, a "pitch that I've never thrown that bad. When you end up hitting a guy after 0-2, that hurts."
In short order, doubles by Dave Henderson and new Athletic Brook Jacoby, and singles by Harold Baines and Mark McGwire put the Orioles in a deep hole.
After Mike Gallego doubled to put runners at second and third manager John Oates removed Ballard for Todd Frohwirth. He retired Mike Bordick on a ground ball to end the inning.
"I kept falling behind 3-0 and 3-1," said Ballard. "When you put yourself in those kinds of holes, you have to keep throwing fastballs. I can't pitch that way. Not many guys can."
Things didn't improve with Frohwirth in the game. The A's increased their lead to 7-0 in the second inning with another battery of hits and a rare error by Cal Ripken, his 10th in the past 310 games.
Baines, Jacoby and Terry Steinbach drove in the runs, and the rest was academic for the 50,071 who made up the Orioles' second-largest crowd of the season.
With three hits last night, Baines raised his season average against the Orioles to .568, with five home runs and 17 RBI.
"I don't care how good a ballclub you are. You can't keep getting down by four, five, six runs," said Oates. "You can't play from that far behind all the time. It takes the enthusiasm right away from you.
"We've got to do better, whether it's by the people doing it now or somebody else. This simply cannot go on the way it is."
The Orioles offense did next to nothing against rookie Joe Slusarski, who is in his third stint with Oakland this season.
He lost his shutout in the third after singles by Chris Hoiles and Juan Bell and a tapper to the mound that hardly qualified as a shot by Mike Devereaux.
"He could have reached out and touched Chris [Hoiles, who was scoring]," said Oates. "He could have had a shutout. But I really think it would have been different if it had been a 2-2 game instead of a 7-1 game."
Ballard said he has "no explanation" for a skein that has prevented him from winning at home since Sept. 20, 1989, when he defeated the Detroit Tigers, 9-2.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "It's just a freak thing. A lot of times you pitch games and lose 3-2 and 4-3. You'd think you'd be lucky enough to luck into a win in one of those sometime."
"A lot of times there just isn't a reason, but you've got to keep answering the question. I try not to think about it, but it doesn't really frustrate me."
Last night wasn't one of those, but Ballard would not blame it on the sore pectoral muscle that bothered him in his previous start.
"If you don't get out of the first inning, you expect a loss. You take it."
Ballard, 0-13 since the victory here, threw only 30 pitches as the Orioles fell behind by three or more runs before the fourth inning for the 29th time.
"If it happens every two weeks, you bounce back," said Oates. "But after a while it takes you out of your offense and affects your defense."
Slusarski lost, 6-1, to the Orioles on May 14, lasting only 4 2/3 innings and yielding three homers. Last night, he was much better.
"I got the early lead and I just wanted to be aggressive and throw strikes," said Slusarski, who threw 93 pitches in a game that lasted just 2 hours, 24 minutes. "I wanted to make them beat me with their bats and not beat myself. Everything was working real well."
"That was exactly what we needed," said Athletics manager Tony La Russa. "He pitched well with a lead, which is not always easy to do. That's a great way to pitch."
But it is almost totally foreign here to Ballard of late. He can't wait for the downtown park to open next season. It can't get any worse.
Haunted at home
Jeff Ballard has only won once at Memorial Stadium since the end of 1989 -- and that victory came in relief. Here's a look at the 18 starts he's made since he last got a victory at home:
Date.. ..Opponent.. ..Result
9/24/89..New York.. ..L, 2-0
4/22/90..Detroit.. . No dec.
4/27/90..Seattle.. .. L, 4-3
5/2/90.. California.. L, 3-0
5/22/90..Minnesota.. No dec.
6/12/90..Milwaukee.. No dec.
6/17/90..Boston.. .. .L, 6-5
6/28/90..Cleveland.. .L, 7-4
7/16/90..Texas.. .. .No dec.
4/8/91.. Chicago.. .. L, 9-1
4/30/91..Seattle.. .. L, 6-3
5/15/91..Oakland.. .. L, 6-3
5/19/91..California. L, 10-2
5/25/91..New York.. .No dec.
6/9/91.. Toronto.. .. L, 3-2
7/2/91.. Detroit.. .. L, 4-3
7/20/91..Seattle.. .. L, 5-1
7/27/91..Oakland.. .. L, 9-1