CHICAGO -- Mike Mussina returned to the scene of his major-league debut last night and extracted a large measure of revenge from the Chicago White Sox.
It was last Aug. 4 that Mussina was on the short end of a 1-decision, losing on a home run by Frank Thomas. In his first appearance at Comiskey Park since then, the 23-year-old right-hander came within one out of a complete-game shutout as the Orioles won their fifth straight road game with a 2-0 win over the White Sox.
Mussina allowed only four singles in 8 2/3 innings, before gettinlast-out help from Gregg Olson to run his record to 5-0 and move the second-place Orioles to within a half-game of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Olson was summoned after Robin Ventura got the fourth hit ofMussina, a sharp single to center field. That brought Thomas to the plate representing the tying run.
It was not the most desirable matchup for the Orioles, sincThomas entered the game with an .875 career average off Mussina.
"Thomas is the last guy we want up there in that situation," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "Of all the guys in baseball, that's the guy I least wanted to see up there. But if the guy coming up had gone 0-for-17 against him [Mussina], he wasn't going to face him. He gave me 8 2/3 innings. There was no way he was going to get anything but a win."
Mussina said: "I knew if I didn't have a 1-2-3 inning, I would be out of there. I wanted to get a complete game. I started. I might as well finish. But I understand where Johnny's coming from. We're out to win, and if it means coming out of a shutout with two outs in the ninth inning, then that's the way it's got to be."
Thomas prolonged the drama with an infield hit on which third baseman Leo Gomez failed to make a short-hop pickup on the run.
However, Olson secured his eighth save in nine opportunities binducing George Bell to hit into a game-ending force play on a ground ball to shortstop Cal Ripken.
Both teams got their leadoff runner on base in the second inning, but neither advanced more than a base. Randy Milligan hit a double-play grounder to second baseman Steve Sax after Sam Horn singled to right for the Orioles' first hit.
In the bottom half of the inning, Thomas continued his personaassault against Mussina when he also singled to right field. At that point, the White Sox first baseman had a career average of .888 (8-for-9) and on-base percentage of .909 (10-for-11) against Mussina.
After Bell lined to left, Dan Pasqua and Ron Karkovice struck ouswinging to end the inning, and the Orioles then scrambled for a run to take a 1-0 lead in the third.
Gomez hit a soft double to right field with one out and, after MarMcLemore lined out, he chugged home with the game's first run when Brady Anderson's ground ball went under Thomas' glove at first. It looked as if Gomez would be out on the play, but catcher Karkovice didn't handle the throw from Pasqua. Ripken lined to deep center to end the inning.
The White Sox threatened again in the third, when LancJohnson singled and stole second before Craig Grebeck struck out. But the White Sox center fielder tried the thievery route once too often, at least in the opinion of third-base umpire Jim Evans, who called him out on a close play. Tim Raines walked, but Mussina got Sax on a ground ball for the third out.
The Orioles likewise let an opportunity slide by in the fourtinning, when Horn and Milligan both walked -- but failed to advance. Hoiles took a third strike on a 3-and-2 pitch, Joe Orsulak floated a soft liner to Sax and Gomez went down swinging as Alex Fernandez turned his fastball up a notch.
Both pitchers found a groove in the middle innings. At one point 19 straight hitters were retired before the Orioles broke the streak by bunching three singles in the seventh inning.
Fernandez had retired 10 in a row before Orsulak hit a sofone-out single to right and went to third on an almost identical hit by Gomez. McLemore's sharp single to left drove in Orsulak to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead, but Fernandez regrouped to get Anderson and Mike Devereaux.
A couple more cheap hits got Fernandez out of the game in theighth, but the Orioles were unable to add to their lead. With two outs, Milligan hit a soft single to right and Hoiles followed with a swinging bunt down the third-base line that Ventura couldn't handle.
That brought left-hander Scott Radinsky into the game to facOrsulak. With Glenn Davis available on the bench as a pinch hitter, Orioles manager John Oates played it close to the vest and decided on defense over the possibility of padding his
lead. Orsulak ended the inning by striking out on a high fastball on a 3-and-2 count.
As impressive as Fernandez was during his 7 2/3 innings on thmound, Mussina had an even more dominating run. Following the two-out walk to Raines in the third inning, Mussina took control of the game.
Combining a powerful fastball with an excellent curve, Mussingot 14 straight hitters, including Thomas twice on ground balls to third base, before pinch hitter Warren Newson got an infield hit with one out in the eighth. But Johnson and Grebeck went out meekly to remove the threat.