In his nomadic season, Orioles outfielder Eric Byrnes was happy for one thing yesterday -- that he finally would be going home to sleep in his own bed. More than a month after being traded by Oakland to Colorado, then to Baltimore, he comes back home with the Orioles' trip to Oakland this week.

But while he became one of the most popular Athletics players in parts of six seasons with the team, his return is less emotional and more about seizing a competitive advantage. Having had a front row seat for several Athletics comebacks, including the first days of this year's Oakland charge, he said he sees similarities between the Orioles and A's. And he thinks this Baltimore team could make the same kind of late-season charge.

"These are the guys we could be chasing down at the end of the season," he said. "This is a critical series."

Sosa Hits Seventh

With Rafael Palmeiro's return, Sammy Sosa was dropped to seventh in the batting order -- the lowest he has batted this year. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo said the drop was simply to keep from having too many right-handed hitters in a row rather than a demotion.

"Don't read anything into that," said Perlozzo, who added that he plans on sitting Palmeiro tonight against Oakland's Barry Zito and will probably bat Sosa sixth. Sosa has batted second, fourth, fifth and sixth as the Orioles try to find some way to draw production from him.

Maine Credits His Catcher

John Maine gave much of the credit for his first major league win Saturday to catcher Javy Lopez. Maine said he struggled in the minors this year mostly because he did not do a good job of picking pitches. Lopez quickly figured out what was working and called the game accordingly. "I was having trouble getting inside with the fastball," Maine said. "We stayed outside with the fastball." . . .

Perlozzo seems to have cooled on the idea of using Miguel Tejada as a designated hitter. He thinks Tejada has become more invigorated of late and might not need the break from the field. "I think that was tiredness," Perlozzo said. "When you get tired mentally, you get tired physically." . . . Matt Bailie pitched a no-hitter as the Bowie Baysox beat the Erie SeaWolves, 5-0, Sunday in Erie, Pa.