Jim Palmer hasn't been his old self at times this season, but the problems of the Baltimore pitcher are minuscule when compared with those dogging the Oakland A's.

Palmer, a Cy Young Award winner in three of the past four seasons, had failed to finish his last six starts and two straight losses had lowered his record to 12-10. But then the A's came to the rescue.

Retiring 19 of the last 20 batters, Palmer breezed past Oakland, 6-1, on a two-hitter Friday night - extending Baltimore's winning streak to five and the losing skein of the A's to 14. The love run off Palmer was unearned.

Palmer, fighting to regain his confidence despite being a 20-game winner in six of the past seven seasons, guarded against overoptimism in view of the opposition.

"They have some good young players who swing the bat," he said of the A's, "but it's not exactly like facing Boston. And, I don't say that to demean them by any means.

"They've been struggling, and I guess they've been struggling with the bat, too."

Indeed, the A's have been the victims of three two-hitters during the past week. They've been shut out four times during the losing streak, and in only one of the 14 games have they scored more than three runs.

Vida Blue, one of few surviving links with Oakland's recent era of greatness, allowed a solo home run to Doug DeClinces in the second and was still locked in a 1-1 tie when the Orioles struck for four runs in the sixth.

Singles by Rich Dauer, Ken Singleton and Eddie Murray snapped the tie, and another run-producing single by Andres Mora finished Blue, sending him down to his second defeat in 48 hours. Garcia then greeted Joe Coleman with a two-run single.