The Baltimore Orioles have turned almost entirely to the promise of youth, and -- finally -- they are beginning to see some promising results.
Rookie right-hander Mike Mussina held the Texas Rangers to three hits over eight innings on the way to his first major-league victory and rookie outfielder Chito Martinez hit two home runs as the Orioles scored a 10-2 victory last night at Memorial Stadium.
That's four straight victories and all of them at home for the club that began the week with the worst home record in baseball.
Mussina (1-2) overpowered the Rangers, setting an Orioles season high with 10 strikeouts. He gave up two hits in the first, then held the Rangers to a bunt single over the next seven innings before turning the game over to newly recalled reliever J. J. Bautista in the ninth.
It was only the second time in the last 440 Orioles games that a Baltimore pitcher has struck out 10 batters or more. Pete Harnisch was the other, striking out 10 New York Yankees on June 9, 1990.
Martinez had three hits in all to raise his average to .327, which ranks him first among American League rookies with at least 100 at-bats. His two homers led an 11-hit Orioles attack that pushed the Rangers to the brink of a four-game sweep.
The Orioles youth movement took another step forward yesterday, when the club summoned right-hander Jose Mesa from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings to rejoin the rotation tonight. But the more immediate concern centered on Mussina, who had taken a beating in his second major-league start Friday night.
There was room to wonder how he would rebound after giving up 11 hits and five runs to the Chicago White Sox in 3 1/3 innings, and Mussina kept everyone wondering in the first inning when he gave up a two-run homer to left fielder Juan Gonzalez. But he settled down to strike out five batters through the first three innings while his teammates hammered away at Rangers starter Gerald Alexander.
Mike Devereaux led off the bottom of the first with a walk and scored on a one-out double by Cal Ripken. Rookie Chito Martinez led off the second with a game-tying home run -- his sixth of the season. Ripken gave Mussina the lead in the third with a two-run double to right center and the Orioles went on to break the game open with a five-run bat-around.
Joe Orsulak drove in a run with a hit to center and Martinez knocked Alexander out of the game with a one-out single to right. Reliever Wayne Rosenthal came on to walk Leo Gomez and get Bob Melvin on a pop up to short, but Juan Bell pulled a two-run double down the right field line to give the Orioles a 7-2 advantage.
Site: Memorial Stadium
Rangers starter: Oil Can Boyd (0-3, 6.86)
Orioles starter: Jose Mesa (4-8, 5.75)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)