OAKLAND, Calif. -- Another Orioles game, circa 1995. A starter who couldn't pitch out of trouble. A couple of brutal errors. One very, very bad inning.
The twist was that it was the Oakland Athletics, and not the floundering Orioles, who committed these sins against baseball last night. In a duel of lackluster wild-card contenders, the Orioles prevailed, 8-4, and avoided the dubious distinction of falling 10 games under .500 for the first time this year.
Rick Krivda pitched six innings for his first major-league victory and Terry Clark threw the last three innings for his first major-league save.
But the Orioles walked off the field angry, angry about two pitches thrown to -- or at -- first baseman Rafael Palmeiro leading off the ninth inning. Right fielder Bobby Bonilla called a players-only meeting after the game to discuss the incident, and aimed the blame at Athletics manager Tony LaRussa.
"It was obvious, which is fine," Palmeiro said. "If that's the way La Russa's going to play, he's going to get somebody on their team killed."
Right fielder Kevin Bass said, "Basically, [we realized] that it was intentional . . . and we've got to do something about it."
Batters had been getting plunked all night. Oakland starter Ariel Prieto hit Bonilla with a fastball in the first inning, and Krivda hit Brosius with two outs and nobody on base in the sixth.
In the seventh, Orioles reliever Terry Clark bounced a pitch in the dirt and off the foot of Javier. The Athletics lead the league in hit batsmen, and Carlos Reyes' first pitch in the ninth inning went behind Palmeiro, who had hit a three-run homer in the second inning.
The Orioles' first baseman turned to home plate umpire John Hirschbeck and said something. If he was suggesting that Reyes might be trying to send a message, Reyes backed up that point by hitting Palmeiro with his very next pitch.
Orioles manager Phil Regan said, "I think he threw at him. Twice. Another day will come. I don't mind playing that way if that's the way he wants to play.
"I'm talking about La Russa. I think it comes from him."
La Russa said, "I watched the same game. There's two clubs on the field, not one. You have to watch both clubs on the field, not just one."
Loosely translated: The Orioles hit two, the Athletics hit two.
Bonilla wouldn't comment on his reasons for calling the meeting, or about Palmeiro's at-bat in the ninth inning.
The Orioles (48-56) are six games and five teams removed from the Texas Rangers, the wild-card front-runner, and only percentage points behind the Athletics (49-57).
The Athletics picked up the Orioles, dusted them off, and escorted them to victory. Prieto walked six in four-plus innings; it was a good sign for the O's when Curtis Goodwin, leading off the game, drew his first walk since July 13 to open the game. Prieto survived the first inning without allowing any runs, but the strike zone continued to elude him in the second and that cost him in a big way.
Harold Baines singled over short and Chris Hoiles walked. Prieto fell behind Jeff Huson three balls and one strike and had to lay a fastball over the plate, and Huson mashed it. Huson, not a power hitter, drove the ball to deep left, advancing Baines to third.
Goodwin, too, got ahead in the count and he lifted a shot to center, plenty deep for Baines to score. (The first sacrifice fly by an Oriole since Aug. 4. This was a good night). Brady Anderson walked.
As he had done with Huson, Prieto fell behind Palmeiro three balls and one strike. As he had done with Huson, Prieto threw a pitch over the heart of the plate, needing a strike. But Palmeiro is not Jeff Huson. He slammed a three-run homer to right field, Palmeiro's 26th of the year, and fourth in his last six games.
The Athletics, a fading and physically battered team, were down five runs, which may go a long way toward explaining what took place when the next hitter, Bonilla, hit a hard grounder toward first.
The ball skipped off the glove of Scott Brosius, playing first base in the absence of injured Mark McGwire, and rolled into short right field. Bonilla never slowed going around first, hustling into second. Seeing Bonilla on the run, Athletics right fielder Geronimo Berroa charged, barehanded the ball and unleashed a throw that had a better chance of reaching neighboring Berkeley than the glove of shortstop Mike Bordick.
The ball bounced past third baseman Craig Paquette, into the huge foul area that enables football to be played in the Coliseum. At this moment, the Athletics probably wished the Raiders never existed, because Paquette had to run about 100 feet to track down the loose ball, and Bonilla was rumbling around third, right past the stop sign put up by Orioles coach Steve Boros.
Bonilla slid home ahead of the throw. A run on an infield grounder. This was a good night for the Orioles.
"This was a good win for us," said Regan.
At this point, any win is a good win.
Opponent: Oakland Athletics
Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum
TV/Radio: No TV/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jamie Moyer (7-4, 4.45) vs. Athletics' Steve Wojciechowski (1-1, 6.75)