TONIGHT: In Oakland, Birds look to pick up where hot-hitting Indians left off

ANAHEIM, CALIF. THC B — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Will the real Oakland A's show up to play the Orioles the next two days? Or will the impostors who fattened the batting averages of the Cleveland Indians make a return appearance?

As much trouble as the Orioles have had scoring runs this season, they had to wince when they saw the bombardment the Indians dropped on the A's last weekend. The three-time defending AL champions gave up 35 runs in two very uncharacteristic games against Cleveland -- and then had a day off to tend to their wounds.


Though no doubt stunned by the Indians' ambush, Oakland manager Tony La Russa remained upbeat about the Western Division leaders. "It's not easy to win in this league," said La Russa, who will get no argument from the Orioles on that point.

The two-game series against the A's will mark the beginning of the Orioles' experiment with a four-man rotation. However, that doesn't mean there won't be a new arm among the starters.


Ben McDonald (1-1, 6.75) will be the first pitcher to start after three days of rest tonight (10:35, ESPN), facing Mike Moore (4-0, 3.26).

Tomorrow afternoon (3:15) Bob Milacki (1-0), coming off two strong relief outings of more than five innings each, could get his first start of the year. Jeff Robinson had been listed to make this start, but manager Frank Robinson wavered after he gave up five runs in one-third of an inning in his last start Saturday night.

"I might not decide until after the game tomorrow [tonight]," said Robinson, who indicated that Dave Johnson also was a possibility.

Dave Stewart (2-2, 5.77), whose earned run average this time of year usually looks like his weight, will pitch tomorrow afternoon's game for the A's.


* HOT: The Cubs' George Bell has three homers in four games.

* COLD: Along with facing 50,000 largely irate fans in his return to Shea Stadium tonight, the Dodgers' Darryl Strawberry will be battling a 1-for-21 slump that includes 12 strikeouts. "Of course he'll get booed," said Eric Rupert, a N.Y. train coachman. "This is New York City."

* FREEZING: They had to lose their last three to do it, but April was the Braves' 23rd straight losing month.




* WHEN: Today, 10:35 p.m.

(ESPN, WBAL-AM 1090, WTOP-AM 1500)

* WHERE: Oakland Coliseum.

* SEASON SERIES: First game of the series.


* STANDINGS: The Orioles (9-14) are in sixth place in the AL East, 5 1/2 games behind Boston. The A's (15-9) lead the AL West, 2 1/2 games ahead of Chicago.

* PITCHERS: The Orioles' Ben McDonald (1-1, 6.75) vs. the A's Mike Moore (4-0, 3.26).

* EXTRA BASES: Cal Ripken had two hits, including a homer, and finished the four-game series against California 7-for-18, equaling the number of hits he had all last season against the Angels in 45 at-bats . . . Friday night, Oakland had a respectable team ERA of 3.78. By sundown Sunday, it had soared to 4.58 . . . Mark McGwire is the A's Oriole killer, hitting 19 home runs in 51 lifetime games . . . Dave Henderson leads the A's this season with a .371 average (33-for-89), eight home runs and 21 RBIs . . . Orioles castoff Jamie Quirk is hitting .346 (9-for-26). McGwire (.218) and Rickey Henderson (.237) are struggling.