Losing two out of three to the Oakland Athletics isn't anything new for the Orioles. Especially in Baltimore, where they've lost 10 of the past 11 to the American League West Division leaders.
And as if losing to the A's isn't bad enough, the Orioles usually can expect to take a pounding in the process.
On the surface, that's what happened as the Orioles lost, 7-3, yesterday in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggested.
But the forearm-bashing A's didn't thump the Orioles with home runs the past two days. Instead, they maneuvered hits over the entire field. Harold Baines hit a bases-empty shot yesterday, as Carney Lansford had done in the series opener Friday, but that was the extent of Oakland's homer heroics.
The A's spent the rest of the time "pinging" the Orioles -- and yesterday right-hander Mike Moore stifled the home team bats until weakening in the ninth inning. By then, the contest already had been decided.
Despite the loss, the Orioles remained three games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East. The Blue Jays were beaten, 2-0, by the Minnesota Twins. The Milwaukee Brewers also lost, 3-2, to the Detroit Tigers, and are 3 1/2 behind Toronto.
If the way the A's went about their business was a bit different, the fact Moore shut down the Orioles certainly wasn't a surprise. He is 3-0 against the Orioles this year and 15-5 since 1985.
"I've done pretty well against them my whole career, but I don't know why," said Moore (13-10). "They're explosive, there are some key people you have to keep off base -- Brady [Anderson] and [Mike] Devereaux -- but you have to be careful with all of them."
Devereaux and Mark McLemore split four of the six hits off Moore, but the only Orioles run before the ninth was an unearned score in the fourth. Devereaux singled and scored after a two-base throwing error by third baseman Jerry Browne.
Meanwhile, the A's used a more diversified attack. Jose Canseco drove in four runs with two singles and an infield grounder, Rickey Henderson had two hits, a walk, a stolen base and scored twice, and Lansford chipped in with three hits to pin the loss on Ben McDonald (12-9).
"That one was a little tough to accept," said McDonald, who yielded seven hits and six runs in 6 1/3 innings. "I think I threw the ball better than that.
"I made two great pitches to Henderson and he had a double and a single to show for it -- and he shattered his bat on both of them."
Manager Johnny Oates did not disagree with his pitcher's assessment, but also admitted that it's not an accident when the A's score runs, whether they're hitting the ball out of the park or spraying it all over the field.
"Jeff [Tackett] said that Ben made some great pitches, and that's the frustrating part about it," said Oates. "I thought Ben threw the ball very, very well. They didn't hit very many balls hard off him, but I don't know if that's the criteria [of how well McDonald threw the ball] or not."
What Oates does know is that it isn't an accident when the A's score runs, regardless of how they do it, and Canseco is the first to agree.
"There's no replacement for power," said Canseco, "but we're doing it with contact hitters, getting runners over, a lot of different combinations. You can't just win on power.
"Big Ben was throwing hard, and he had a pretty good slider, but sooner or later . . . People were getting on base, he was a little erratic with his fastball, and finally we took advantage of it."
The A's broke open the game with four runs in the seventh inning, when they had six hits. A double by Lance Blankenship, after Walt Weiss opened with a single, was the hit that put McDonald in a deep hole.
Blankenship squared to bunt on the first pitch, which was a ball. Then, with McDonald thinking the sacrifice was still in order, he drilled a middle-of-the-plate fastball into the left-center-field gap.
It was all downhill after that, with Canseco looping a two-run single to left after Oates decided against an intentional walk with first base open. "We'll never know what would've happened if we had walked Canseco," said Oates.
When McDonald was removed in favor of left-hander Pat Clements, the natural move to make if Canseco had been walked, Baines followed with a bouncing single to center field.
"Today was definitely a 'push' day," said A's manager Tony La Russa, whose team has won 10 of its past 11. "The guys really had to push each other today. It was a very tough game for a long time, and Mike [Moore] got the tempo going."
And the A's didn't miss a beat in keeping it going. They didn't do it in the style to which everybody has become accustomed, but they got it done.