WEEKEND: A's arrive here on pivotal road if they hope to retain AL title

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

The Oakland A's visit Memorial Stadium for the last time this weekend in the midst of a difficult stretch that could determine whether they win a fourth straight American League pennant.

Starting with the series in Cleveland that concluded with a bitter 8-7 loss to the Indians last night, the A's were facing 21 of 27 games on the road. To make matters worse, they have a few key players battling horrendous slumps.

Dave Henderson is 9-for-85, Mark McGwire 4-for-36, and Carney Lansford, who just returned from a 90-day stint on the disabled list, had only one hit in 16 at-bats before returning to the Bay Area yesterday to continue his rehabilitation.

It is not a pretty picture as the A's try to break loose from Texas and Chicago and overtake Minnesota.

But the visitors will get no sympathy from Jeff Robinson (4-9, 4.86), the Orioles' starter tonight (7:35, HTS).

Robinson will be trying to break a career-high three-game losing streak while trying to keep the Orioles' modest two-game winning streak intact. The righthander has won only once in his last 10 starts, despite the fact he has taken a lead into the fifth inning or later in five of his last seven appearances.

The last time Robinson faced the A's is a game the big righthander would like to forget. He managed to retire only one batter and was banged around for five runs in the first game after the All-Star break.

Since then Robinson has re-introduced an old pitch, the forkball, and shown signs of effectiveness.

Tomorrow night Jeff Ballard (6-10, 4.76) will face an as yet to be determined A's starter. Sunday afternoon Ben McDonald (4-4, 5.86) will close out the homestand against Bob Welch (8-6, 3.99).

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