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


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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