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Ump Hirschbeck is big hit with pitchers, at least


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Fans have been hollering at umpires all summer to expand the strike zone.

Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck was getting hollered at all day yesterday, but nobody was telling him to make his strike zone larger in the Athletics' 4-3 victory over the Orioles at Oakland Coliseum.

Just the opposite.

Heads were shaking, tongues lashing and glares fixing, all in Hirschbeck's direction.

Oakland's Scott Brosius struck out to end the seventh inning on a pitch that infuriated him. He let Hirschbeck have it verbally, but didn't draw an ejection.

Hirschbeck saved his thumb for Oriole Brady Anderson, who drew an ejection after Ron Darling's 1-0 pitch in the eighth was called a strike.

A disbelieving Anderson stepped out of the batter's box. Hirschbeck told him to step back in. He didn't and Hirschbeck ran him. Anderson exploded, jawed nose-to-nose with Hirschbeck and had to be restrained by manager Johnny Oates and third base coach Jerry Narron.

Anderson thought he paid for Brosius' sins.

"I think he was still mad at Brosius," Anderson said. "I didn't say anything to get thrown out. I didn't say anything derogatory to him."

Why then did he get tossed?

"He told me to get back in the box and when I didn't get back in exactly when he wanted me to, he threw me out," Anderson said.

Hirschbeck concurred, except for the Brosius carry-over portion.

"It was more his actions than anything he said," Hirschbeck said. "I told him three times to get back in the box. I told him you had your say, get in the box. He refused, so I got rid of him."

Neither starting pitcher complained. Both found it refreshing.

"Normally you get to see those tin cups every night," said Darling, who struck out 10 in eight innings.

McDonald, who struck out four and walked four before leaving with one out in the sixth, would like to see more umpires call games the way Hirschbeck did yesterday's.

"That's the way the strike zone should be," he said. "He was very consistent. I think the hitters get spoiled because they have pie-plate strike zones most of the year. If they are going to keep making the ballpark smaller and the hitters are bigger and stronger, a strike should be called a strike. And if a catcher sets up three inches outside and the pitcher hits his mitt, the pitcher should be rewarded with a strike."

McDonald, who was pitching on two extra days of rest because of the Kingdome postponements, said he battled control problems early.

He didn't blame Hirschbeck for his two walks in the first four innings or for the two cramp-induced walks in the sixth.

"He's about the best there is," McDonald said of Hirschbeck.

Oates said of Hirschbeck's strike zone: "If you hit the backstop, it was a strike."

Oates also said he was consistent.

Oakland manager Tony La Russa said he found nothing wrong with the way Hirschbeck called the game.

"He had a very aggressive strike zone from the top of the first to the bottom of the ninth," La Russa said.

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