Orioles can't recover with Sid still on the skids, 6-3

OAKLAND, CALIF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- He brain-cramped a bunt play, served two more home run pitches in one inning when ahead in the count, watched his ERA soar over five, lasted only three innings, allowed five runs, and lost.

Not only that, but veteran left-hander Sid Fernandez also blasted himself after the Orioles lost, 6-3, to the Oakland Athletics yesterday at the Oakland Coliseum.


He could have lived with the performance if he could write it off as just one of those days. He couldn't. Fernandez has viewed this as just one of those seasons, and that he can't dismiss so easily.

"I don't think I'm having a good year at all," Fernandez said. "It's ridiculous."


How ridiculous? He has allowed 23 home runs in 100 2/3 innings. His ERA is 5.10 and he has averaged slightly under six innings per start.

"I know the Orioles are probably disappointed they signed me right about now," Fernandez said. "But it's not because of a lack of effort. I give my best every time out. I take it hard."

Fernandez (6-5), who signed a three-year, $9 million free-agent contract, needs more than a fat paycheck to stay happy. He needs to pitch as he pitched for most of his 10 seasons with the New York Mets.

He never allowed more than 21 home runs in a National League season and never had an ERA higher than 3.81.

"I'm not happy at all," Fernandez said. "I'm getting my butt kicked, to tell the truth."

Big of Fernandez to admit as much. His manager was much kinder, much gentler in his assessment of the large left-hander.

"We're 12-5 in games he starts," Oates correctly pointed out. "I'd like to have that from every starter we've got."

Come on Johnny, what do you really think?


"We'd like to have better, but he's given us a chance to win," Oates said.

Fernandez didn't give the Orioles much of a chance to win yesterday and neither did Oakland A's right-hander Todd Van Poppel.

Van Poppel (6-9, 6.16) limited the Orioles to three hits and one run in seven innings and he did almost exclusively with fastballs.

"He just came at me like I was a pitcher," said Dwight Smith, who went 2-for-4. "Nothing but fastballs."

Said Oates: "The guy pitched against us with one pitch for seven innings. So it must have been good. He threw one changeup that ended up in the seats and about three curveballs. Everything else was a sinker or a cutter. I don't think he threw much more than five non-fastballs in seven innings."

The changeup that landed in the seats was planted there by streaking Rafael Palmeiro, who has homered in six of the Orioles' eight games since the All-Star break.


Mostly, Palmeiro saw fastballs from Van Poppel.

"We knew he was coming after us," Palmeiro said. "He was just better than we were today."

The first-inning home run, Palmeiro's 21st, gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead that didn't survive the second inning.

By the end of the third, Fernandez was behind 5-1 and the Orioles were on their way to their first loss by more than two runs since June 22.

Free-swinging Ruben Sierra hit the first of two home runs against Fernandez in the three-run third inning and Scott Brosius hit the second.

Sierra knocked an 0-2 fastball from Fernandez over the left-field fence for his 21st home run. Brosius' 11th home run came on a 1-2 fastball.


"The pitch to Sierra was supposed to be in and I didn't get it in enough," Fernandez said.

Instead, he got it in Sierra's wheelhouse, then had to watch one of baseball's most prolonged home run trots.

Brosius knocked a fastball near the outside corner over the fence in left-center with a man on base to put the A's ahead 5-1.

Fernandez's biggest sin was committed the inning before when Brosius hit a ball about 350 feet shorter.

Terry Steinbach led off the second with a double to right-center and Brosius followed with a bunt down the first-base line. The ball started foul, then rolled fair. After it rolled fair, Fernandez picked it up but never made the throw.

"It was rolling foul and it came back," Fernandez said. "I was going to let it go, but it came back fair and I tried to rush it and couldn't get a handle on it."


The proper way to play the bunt?

"Pick it up and throw the guy out," Oates said. "It isn't going to roll foul here. It never does here. It's always been that way. You could stand out there and roll balls until the cows come home and it's not going to roll foul."

Fernandez, a first-year American League pitcher, was made aware of that, according to Oates.

Fernandez said he did not recall being informed about the tilted foul line.

"It was foul and it came back in," Palmeiro said. "Sid was almost there when it was foul, then it came back in."

The botched bunt play gave the A's runners on the corners with nobody out. Fernandez nearly got out of the tight squeeze, getting two quick outs and throwing two quick strikes to Rickey Henderson. Yet again, Fernandez allowed an 0-2 hit and Henderson's single to left drove in the tying and winning runs.


Mark Williamson tossed four shutout innings in relief of Fernandez, but the Orioles couldn't catch up.

They staged a two-run rally in the ninth off Bob Welch, the third of four Oakland pitchers. Chris Hoiles walked with one out, took third on Smith's double to left and scored on Jeffrey Hammonds' sacrifice fly to center. Smith scored on Mark McLemore's double to left, bringing the score to 6-3, a save situation.

Not surprisingly, Dennis Eckersley came on to earn his 16th save.

By then, Fernandez's day's work long since had ended. He packed a long day into a short day of work and he wasn't too pleased about it.


Opponent: Oakland Athletics


Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum

Time: 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Jamie Moyer (4-6, 4.98) vs. Athletics' Bobby Witt (8-8, 4.61)