OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ben McDonald opened his defense of the American League Pitcher of the Month honors last night by building an early case for winning the May award.
McDonald, 26, became the AL's first six-game winner in his sixth start of the season, pitching the Orioles past the Oakland Athletics, 9-1, in the opener of a series that concludes tonight.
For the second start in a row, McDonald needed no help from the bullpen. He pitched a five-hitter, struck out eight and walked three.
McDonald (6-0, 2.33) became the Orioles first pitcher to open a season with six wins in six starts.
While McDonald continued to dominate from the mound, Mike Devereaux showed loud signs of breaking out of a season-long slump by contributing two bases-empty home runs and an RBI single.
McDonald and Devereaux added to the misery of an A's team that has lost 13 times in 14 games, a team that drew only 12,762 to Oakland Coliseum, an 8-18 team that must feel downright depressed about having 136 games remaining.
McDonald has a long way to go to reach the record for consecutive wins to start a season, a record held by Orioles left-hander Dave McNally, who started the 1969 season with a 15-0 record.
For the 46th time in his last 54 starts, McDonald allowed three earned runs or less.
"Tonight was not his best night," Oates said of McDonald. "That shows you how good his stuff is. He made some good pitches when he needed them, but he made more bad pitches tonight than in any other start. He was up with his breaking ball, up with his fastball and he pitched behind a lot. But he had a three-hitter going into the ninth, so I guess he threw OK. I'll take what he gave us tonight."
One idle day after being shut out by Seattle, the Orioles bats came back to give McDonald the kind of support he has pitched with consistently this season. They tagged six Oakland pitchers for 14 hits.
The only damper on the evening for the Orioles came when right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds came off the field in the bottom of the seventh.
"The doctor told me I had a lingering concussion," said Hammonds, who dropped a fly ball by Scott Brosius before coming out. "That was the last thing on my mind when I was out there. I felt dizzy when I had to make quick moves and my head hurt a little the whole game."
Hammonds, back in the lineup for the first time since suffering cuts on his face in a Saturday night home-plate crash with Seattle catcher Bill Haselman, who was wearing his mask on the play, supported McDonald with a triple and a pair of singles in four at-bats.
"It didn't bother me when I hit," said Hammonds, who said his playing status for tonight's game would be determined after he was re-examined today. "I would say something different if I went 0-for-4."
Devereaux added a home run in the fourth, a run-scoring single in the Orioles' three-run seventh and another homer in the ninth.
"We've been working on Mike, telling him to relax," Oates said. "I told him every at-bat you're fighting yourself. Hopefully, this is the start of something good. I've seen a lot of players have one game like this and then go on a tear."
The Orioles (16-9) gave McDonald an instant cushion with a three-run first inning.
Oakland right-hander Ron Darling was coming off a complete-game, 1-0 loss to his former college foe, Boston Red Sox left-hander Frank Viola.
It was obvious from the outset Darling was not in for another such strong outing. The Orioles jumped on him in the first inning for three runs on four hits, only one less than he yielded to the Red Sox.
Harold Baines drove in the first run on a grounder, Cal Ripken the second on a single to center, Chris Sabo the third on a double to left.
Recent Oakland addition Steve Sax, released by the Chicago White Sox and playing second base for the A's in place of injured Brent Gates, drove in the A's first run with a triple to right that scored Mike Bordick.
After walking Rickey Henderson, McDonald got out of the inning by retiring Troy Neel on a called third strike for the second time in as many at-bats, giving McDonald five strikeouts.
Devereaux planted his fifth home run over the left-field fence leading off the fourth inning to put Darling behind 4-1.
It was only the second home run and 11th RBI for the Orioles from the No. 8 hole in the order.
Devereaux, who made 14 starts batting second, one fifth, one sixth and one seventh, was dropped to eighth in the order for the first time.
Devereaux's fifth home run put him one homer shy of his singles total.
He continued his all-or-nothing trend in the sixth, looking at a pitch on the inside corner for the third strike and then again in the eighth, when he homered again.
The Orioles had all nine Opening Day starters in the lineup last night for the first time since April 20.
The set lineup Oates envisioned carrying through the season was back intact after a variety of injuries. Only the order has changed, with Hammonds settling in for the ninth time in the No. 2 hole.
Opponent: Oakland Athletics
Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Sid Fernandez (1-0, 2.29) vs. Athletics' Todd Van Poppel (0-3, 11.49)