ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Glenn Davis comeback didn't get a lot of buildup in the Lone Star State. The lone star around here is Nolan Ryan, who was coming back from a shoulder injury of his own.
Ryan came off the disabled list last night to pitch five innings and earn his eighth victory, as the Texas Rangers handed the Baltimore Orioles their fourth straight loss, 4-1, before 33,652 at Arlington Stadium.
Orioles rookie Mike Mussina held his own in an abbreviated pitching duel with baseball's all-time strikeout leader, but a bases-empty home run by Ruben Sierra and a game-breaking three-run shot by Kevin Reimer sent him to his third defeat in four major-league decisions.
Reimer drove an 0-2 curveball over the center-field fence with two out in the sixth inning to pad the precarious 1-0 lead that Ryan had handed over to the Rangers bullpen after the fifth.
Manager John Oates applauded the performance of his young starter, but Mussina was in no mood for self-congratulation.
"I gave up two home runs on junk pitches instead of letting them hit my best stuff," he said. "I gave up [Reimer's] home run on junk. That was not my best pitch, so it was stupid. They weren't hitting my fastball that well."
Mussina had struck out eight and appeared to be in control until the Rangers ran off four consecutive two-out hits to drive him out of the game. Ryan was gone by then, but the home run assured that his strong -- albeit brief -- comeback performance would not go to waste.
Second baseman Bill Ripken broke up the shutout with an RBI double off reliever Terry Mathews in the eighth inning, but Mathews held on to record his first major-league save and the Orioles remained winless in four games on this six-game road trip.
But Oates was surprisingly upbeat afterward. He got Davis back and he watched one of the top pitching prospects in baseball throw well in spite of the two mistake pitches.
"I'm as excited as you can be after a loss," Oates said. "It's exciting to be in a game like that. He threw the ball well. There were a couple of times he was up in the strike zone, but he's going to get better. This is all part of the learning process."
Davis made his first appearance in a major-league game since April 24 and had a single and a walk in four trips to the plate. But this was a pitched battle, featuring just 12 hits and 21 strikeouts.
Mussina continued his Legends of Baseball tour, facing Ryan, 44, after being matched against 43-year-old Charlie Hough in two of his first three major-league starts. Even with 28-year-old Jose Guzman thrown into the equation, the average age of the opposing pitcher in Mussina's first four starts is 40 years, 1 month.
Ryan's reputation as one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball history is well-established, but Mussina was every bit as dominant in the early innings.
He struck out the first two batters he faced in the first inning and went on to hold the Rangers hitless until Sierra opened the fourth with his 17th home run of the year.
The Orioles have had little success this year against Ryan, who defeated them twice over a seven-day period in April for the only two Rangers victories in the first nine meetings between the clubs. He was working on a string of 18 1/3 scoreless innings against Baltimore when he was removed from the game after throwing 74 pitches and giving up two hits.
"It's a very encouraging sign," Ryan said. "It's nothing that you would put in granite and build a monument to it, but it's a very good sign."
Ryan said he wanted to go one more inning, but Rangers manager Bobby Valentine apparently was taking no chances with the club's most valuable pitcher, not after losing Ryan twice this year to shoulder problems.
It had been three weeks since Ryan last started a game. He went on the disabled list with stiffness in the back of his right shoulder after a July 28 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The same soreness -- diagnosed as a strain of the right trapezius and shoulder tendinitis -- also had forced him onto the disabled list in May.
Coincidentally, it was weakness of the right trapezius that forced Davis out of action in late April, though the atrophy was the result of a damaged spinal accessory nerve in his neck. Both Ryan and Davis were beginning their comebacks last night.
Davis won the first round, working Ryan for a walk in the first inning, but he popped out in the fourth in the only other matchup between them.
Ryan gave up a double to Cal Ripken in the first, but he seemed to get tougher as the evening progressed. He struck out seven over five innings before giving way to Mathews.
"Coming right out of the chute, it surprised me," Valentine said, "but he knows himself better than anyone else, so why should I be surprised? He was ready."