Orioles manager Johnny Oates and Texas Rangers starter Nolan Ryan weren't exactly on the same page about what Ryan did to shut down the Orioles, 6-2, yesterday at Camden Yards.
Oates was convinced that Ryan, who limited the Orioles to two runs and four hits in seven innings, was sticking to his patented fastball to earn his 319th career victory.
"He appeared to be throwing well. We didn't do too much with him. It was pretty much his fastball mixed in with that turnover changeup he throws. He had his pretty good fastball. He didn't throw many curves," said Oates.
Not so, according to Ryan.
"I had my good stuff. My fastball and curve were good. I didn't throw many changeups today. I established my curveball early," said Ryan.
Whatever the confusion Oates and Ryan may have had was just a fraction of what Orioles hitters went through. Ryan walked just two and struck out five batters to earn his second win over the Orioles in 10 days, and give the Rangers their first series win over Baltimore in six years.
"Anywhere you win three of four games against these guys, either at our place or their place, is a big series. Their starting pitching and defense are so good," said Ryan, whose fourth-inning strikeout of Leo Gomez, gave him 100 for the season, the 24th time he's accomplished that feat and the 23rd consecutive season Ryan has struck out 100 batters, both major-league records.
The Orioles' benchmarks this season have been pitching and defense, and while Joe Orsulak's dropped fly in the sixth was not costly, Mike Mussina's Jekyll and Hyde performance was.
Mussina, who one-hit the Rangers in Arlington 10 days ago, labored mightily, throwing 132 pitches and getting touched for three runs and eight hits in the first four innings.
He finally settled down, allowing only a mammoth homer to Juan Gonzalez, his second of the day, in the eighth. By then, though, the damage had been done, and the Orioles, unlike Saturday, were unable to muster any kind of comeback, even against the Texas bullpen, the worst in baseball.
"I didn't have very good stuff," said Mussina, who has pitched poorly in his last two starts, the first time that's happened in his 1 1/2 -season big-league career. "I was pretty upset with giving up the second home run after pitching that well."
Mussina downplayed any speculation that being moved up one day in the rotation had been a factor in his effort.
Oates said he and pitching coach Dick Bosman tried to determine if Mussina and Rick Sutcliffe, Saturday's starter, could pitch on three days rest, as they had this weekend.
"Based on what I saw, I would say yes, though I don't want to make a habit of it. In this case, he [Mussina] had thrown only 59 pitches in Chicago [in a rain-delayed game Wednesday]. I don't plan on doing it regularly."
After the game, Oates also dismissed any talk that the Rangers had figured out Mussina after he mastered them less than two weeks before.
"You're going to have to face guys back-to-back in this business," Oates said. "If you start doubting yourself before you face them, you'd better find another profession."
Since the Orioles are done with the Rangers, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, there won't be any immediate concerns about facing the same team twice immediately.
But, something is certainly different about the Orioles, going back to the Twins series just before the All-Star break, where they dropped three of four.
They've now lost five of their last six, six of their last seven at Camden Yards, where once they were near unbeatable and are just 10 games above .500 for the first time since May 31.
And, all of a sudden, the Orioles are closer to third place in the American League East than first, as the surging Milwaukee Brewers have won eight of their last 10 to pull even with the Orioles in the loss column, and just a half-game behind them in the overall standings.
"We haven't played the caliber of ball as a team that you have to play to be a good team," said Oates, whose Orioles trail the first-place Blue Jays by four games