OAKLAND, AUG. 25 -- The Oakland Athletics sent starter Eric Plunk to the minors when his earned run average rose to 5.84. He came back today as a reliever and showed the Baltimore Orioles his 94-mph fastball.

He struck out the first batter he faced, leaving the potential tying run on third base. Then he struck out three more in saving the Athletics' 9-7 victory. He allowed only one runner, on a walk in the eighth inning, in his 3 1/3 innings and earned his first big-league save.

"Pitching in relief is a little more of a sudden-death thing," he said. "You have to come in and get your best stuff over the plate right away. I like the challenge."

He was 1-4 when banished to Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League early this summer to become a reliever.

Jay Howell, who was the team's top short reliever until midsummer, went on the disabled list Monday and Plunk took his place on the roster. In Tacoma, he had nine saves, a 1.56 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 34 innings.

Eric Bell (9-10) gave up the Athletics' first seven runs.

The Orioles had 10 hits -- including two of the game's five homers -- before Plunk entered the game.

Steve Henderson and Mickey Tettleton hit two-run homers in a six-run, fifth-inning rally that put the Athletics ahead to stay. They made it 8-4 in the fifth, but the Orioles got three in the sixth, two on Lee Lacy's two-out triple. He was on third base when Plunk came in to strike out Bill Ripken on three pitches.

The Athletics got a run in the seventh on Terry Steinbach's sacrifice fly.

Henderson, who drove in three runs, tied the score, 4-4, in the fifth with his third homer this season after Tony Bernazard walked with one out. The Athletics went ahead on Mike Davis' two-out bloop double that scored Jose Canseco, who had walked, and Mark McGwire, who had doubled.

Tettleton's homer was off Mark Williamson. For the Orioles, Fred Lynn and Lacy homered off winner Curt Young, the 28th and 29th homers he's given up this season. Lynn's was his 20th and came in the fourth inning. Lacy's was his sixth and came in the fifth.