Sid Fernandez goes after his second straight win as the Orioles close out their West Coast road trip tonight against the Oakland A's.
The Orioles, coming off last night's 9-1 victory, also will be trying to close the 2 1/2 -game gap on first-place Boston. But making up ground in the potent American League East isn't easy. Last night, only Detroit lost among the five AL East clubs.
Fernandez (1-0, 2.29) will be making his fourth start of the year after opening the season on the disabled list because of shoulder tendinitis. He will be opposed tonight by Todd Van Poppel (0-3, 11.49), the 22-year-old right-hander who may be pitching for his job in the A's starting rotation.
This will be the first appearance against the A's for Fernandez, while the Orioles will be seeing Van Poppel for the third time. He pitched a total of 10 1/3 innings without a decision last year, allowing 10 earned runs for an 8.71 ERA.
Despite those numbers, none of the Orioles regulars have impressive statistics against Van Poppel. Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken and Mike Devereaux all have one hit in six at-bats (.167), while Harold Baines (0-for-4) and Mark McLemore (0-for-5) are hitless. Palmeiro and Brady Anderson (2-for-6, .333) have hit home runs against Van Poppel.
Following tonight's game, the Orioles return home where, following tomorrow's off day, they will open a six-game home stand.
Eddie Murray will make his first regular-season appearance in Baltimore since 1988 when the Cleveland Indians play a three-game series at Camden Yards this weekend. The short stay at home will wrap up with a three-game series against the two-time World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
These six games make up over half of the Orioles' home games in May, when only 11 games are scheduled at Camden Yards.