Mussina 6-hitter completes sweep of Royals, 8-1 Orioles streak to 7th win in row

April 24, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It is inevitable. There will come a day when the Orioles will wake up and say, "Toto, it doesn't look like we're in Kansas City anymore," but the 1992 season is off to a fairy-tale beginning nonetheless.

The Orioles scored a resounding 8-1 victory over the bedraggled Kansas City Royals last night to complete a sweep of the three-game series at Royals Stadium and extend their winning streak to seven games.

They are off to their best start since 1971. The winning streak is the longest since 1989. And it puts them in a second-place tie with the New York Yankees, two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

They are on a serious roll, and even the loss of two front-line players the night before did not slow them down.

"We realize that there will come a time when things aren't going to fall in place like they are right now," manager Johnny Oates said. "There are going to be times when we're going to have to suck it up. But while things are going like this, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it."

Right-hander Mike Mussina scattered six hits on the way to his second victory and the club's fifth complete game. Just to put that nine-inning performance into perspective, consider that the Orioles did not get their fifth complete game last year until their 133rd game of the season.

Mussina had lots of help, but a two-run home run by leadoff man Brady Anderson was all the offensive support he really needed to give the club back-to-back complete games for the first time since Ken Dixon and Scott McGregor completed consecutive starts in 1985.

The Orioles went on to pile up 12 hits -- four of them by fill-in second baseman Mark McLemore -- and send the collapsing Royals to their 14th loss in 15 games.

"We scored a lot of runs," said Mussina, who has given up two runs or fewer in his past nine regular-season starts. "Pitching with a lead is much easier than pitching in a tight game. We got two runs in the third and then we got four more right away, and they [the Royals] aren't going that well right now. They're having a tough time of it."

Oates had to shuffle his lineup to compensate for the loss of Randy Milligan and Bill Ripken, but the hits just kept on coming.

Anderson remains the consummate leadoff hitter, but with a twist. He leads the club with 13 RBI and has played a direct role in nearly a third (23) of the 72 runs the Orioles have scored this season. He does not, however, lead the club in runs scored. He's one behind catcher Chris Hoiles (12).

Mike Devereaux moved into the cleanup spot and turned in his fourth multiple-hit performance in six games, delivering three hits and driving home a pair of runs with a sixth-inning double. McLemore singled in his first four at-bats, stole a base and drove home a run. David Segui, who replaced Milligan at first, had two doubles and his first RBI of the year.

Meanwhile, Royals manager Hal McRae continues to search in vain for the right combination. The Royals are off to their worst start, and their struggle has not been confined to any single aspect of the game.

They entered the series finale averaging 2.2 runs and surrendering an average of 5.0, but even that cannot fully account for a 1-14 start that is the worst by any team since the Orioles lost 21 straight to open the 1988 season.

McRae has reached the point where he can't afford to wait around for good things to start happening. He pulled starter Mark Davis after only 2 1/3 innings last night, even though he had given up just two runs on four hits. It probably won't be long before he pulls Davis out of the rotation, considering his 9.24 ERA for his three starts.

The Orioles didn't exactly rough up Davis. McLemore opened the third inning with a sharp single to left and Anderson homered into the seats in the right-field corner to break the scoreless tie. Davis walked Luis Mercedes and gave up a one-out single to Devereaux and then took the rest of the night off.

Reliever Neal Heaton had even less success. He got a double-play ball to get out of the third, but could not escape the fourth. The Orioles scored four times to break the game open, the biggest blow a two-run double by Cal Ripken off former teammate Mike Boddicker.

It was just overkill. Mussina had no trouble with the slumping Royals lineup on the way to his third straight solid performance. He was not threatened in the early innings, and soon had a substantial margin for error.

He had given up just two earned runs in his first 13 2/3 innings and was coming off a strong eight-inning performance against the Detroit Tigers. But last night's performance clearly was his most overpowering of the young season.

"How do you judge good or bad when he hasn't given up more than two runs in a game in I don't know how long," Oates said. "He didn't give up more than two runs in his last [six] starts of last year."

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