When the Orioles' rotation of the future is considered, David Hernandez is usually forgotten.
The right-hander with the mid-90s fastball is perceived as a back-end starter at best and, oftentimes, he's penciled in as a reliever on the Orioles' eventual dream team.
Yet on a balmy night at Camden Yards, with thousands wearing free T-shirts bearing the name of Brad Bergesen, another of the club's rookie starters, it was Hernandez who delivered a key, convincing performance in a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics and their heralded young right-hander Trevor Cahill.
"Both starting pitchers were good," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "But what counts is that Hernandez was better. Obviously, we needed one of our starters to step up and give us a quality game. And he did."
How much did the Orioles (47-66) need this one?
It broke their three-game losing skid and moved them to 7-18 since the All-Star break. It also ended the A's nine-game winning streak over the Orioles, which dates to July 22, 2007, and was tied for the longest such mark in the majors.
"They've certainly had our number," Trembley said. "I really feel like this is one that can get you through. It can kind of get you through. There's been some tough times. But they've had our numbers."
Hernandez (4-4) allowed just six hits in 6 2/3 innings, permitting solo homers to Scott Hairston and Adam Kennedy. He struck out a career-high six batters for his fifth quality start in his past seven tries. He never allowed two runners on base at any one time.
"He did a real good job with that, making pitches when he had to. And getting ahead in the count was the biggest thing," said catcher Chad Moeller, making his first start since Friday's promotion from Triple-A. "The pitch count was able to stay down and he was able to get deep in the game, which I know is a big deal here at this point."
With two outs in the seventh, the rookie was pulled after Cliff Pennington singled on Hernandez's 106th pitch of the game.
The 24-year-old walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 23,006. And then he watched as relievers Matt Albers, Danys Baez and Jim Johnson shut down the A's for the win.
Oakland seemed primed to rally in the ninth, but Mark Ellis was called out at first on a grounder that he appeared to beat out. Johnson then induced pinch hitter Nomar Garciaparra to fly out for his fourth save.
The Orioles had lost their previous six one-run games.
Perhaps most encouraging for Hernandez and the Orioles, the rookie showed he could handle a team a second time around after allowing seven runs in 7 1/3 total innings in his previous two starts, against the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, teams he had beaten earlier this season.
His first time against Oakland, Hernandez threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in June.
"I knew I had to redeem myself because I didn't want to have three straight bad starts. I was trying to get back on the horse and do well," Hernandez said.
"It gives you a lot of confidence to be able to go up against a team over and over and over again and do well against them."
Cahill (6-12) didn't pitch badly as Oakland's starter, but he dropped his fourth straight decision, tying the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie for the most losses in the American League.
He allowed eight hits and three runs in seven innings, giving up consecutive RBI singles in the fifth to Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts and a run in the second on one of the flukiest plays of the season.
Nolan Reimold singled, stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Cahill then threw an inside pitch that struck the knob of Melvin Mora's bat.
The ball trickled up the first base line and Reimold scampered in from third as Oakland first baseman Tommy Everidge fielded the carom and touched first.
Mora picked up his 30th RBI of the season without leaving the batter's box.
The Orioles had another strange play in the fifth, one that was particularly embarrassing.
With one out and Roberts on second, Nick Markakis hit a high pop-up to the left side of the infield. Roberts rounded third and was nearly at home when Kennedy, playing third, caught the ball. By then it was too late for Roberts to backtrack, after realizing that he had sprinted on what was the inning's second out.
Kennedy threw to second base to double up Roberts, who kicked at the air on his way back to the dugout. Roberts was also thrown out trying to score on a contact play in the third.
Roberts, however, also had three hits and stole two bases, including swiping third for his major league-leading 12th time this season.
"Roberts already atoned for that," Trembley said of the base-running blunder. "I told him if we would have lost that game, that probably would have put me over the edge."
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for Tuesday's game PG 4
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