Mussina deals Royal flush, 3-0 4-hitter completes sweep as K.C. held to 2 runs in 3 games

September 17, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

There have been times in recent years when seven runs haven't been enough for the Orioles to win one game.

But over the past three days that total was enough for the Orioles to sweep a three-game series from the Kansas City Royals. In the process, they also tightened up the American League East race.

Last night Mike Mussina extended the Orioles' mastery over the Royals and continued his season-long brilliance with a four-hit, 3-0 shutout. The Orioles won the first two games of the series by identical 2-1 scores, the second one a 14-inning marathon.

The win, which also featured Cal Ripken's third straight three-hit game and Glenn Davis' first home run since Aug. 13 (No. 11 overall), enabled the Orioles to trim Toronto's division lead to three games.

"We came off the West Coast feeling pretty good about a 7-2 record, but then we kind of put it in neutral for a while," said Mussina. "We were 1-5 [in the first six games of the homestand] and we had to come up with something.

"Fortunately, we came up with some good pitching," said Mussina (16-5), who won his fifth straight, lowered his ERA to 2.60 and certified himself as a late entrant in another race -- the one for the American League's Cy Young Award.

In logging his fourth shutout and eighth complete game of the year, Mussina allowed only six Royals to reach base. None went beyond first.

As amazing as Mussina was last night, he wasn't any different than the pitcher manager Johnny Oates has watched for 29 starts this year. "Amazed?" Oates asked in reply to a post-game question. "Let's not get carried away -- there have been four-hit shutouts pitched before.

"To me, the most pleasing thing about Mike is the consistency with which he has pitched without having a lot of experience," said Oates. "There have been pitchers with better fastballs, better curves or better sliders, but you don't often see someone with his amount of major-league experience [a little more than a year] pitch as consistently as he has.

"What's amazing is not what he did tonight, but what he has

done all year," said Oates.

Mussina ranks third in the league with his 16 wins, third in winning percentage (.762), fourth in ERA (2.60), and is tied for sixth in complete games (seven). He also ranks 10th with 215 innings despite missing a couple of starts early in the year because of a viral infection.

Mussina worked his way easily through the Royals' light-hitting lineup last night, not allowing more than one base runner in any inning.

In the first, Keith Miller was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double and an inning later Wally Joyner was stranded following a one-out safety to right.

The Royals didn't get another runner until Joyner opened the fifth with a walk, but he remained anchored at first as Mike Macfarlane flied out, Kevin Koslofski popped up and Jeff Conine struck out. An inning later the Royals again failed to advance a leadoff runner -- and lost the first of two protests with the umpires.

With a man on first and Miller at the plate, the Orioles called a

pitchout as the Royals tried a hit-and-run play. Trying to protect the runner, Miller managed to foul off the pitch -- and hit Hoiles' glove as the catcher moved into position to make a throw.

The Royals claimed Miller should have been awarded first base for interference, but instead the Kansas City second baseman was called out for stepping out of the batter's box. Video replays appeared to support the K.C. protest, but manager Hal McRae's contention was disallowed.

"He [Miller] stepped across the plate and hit the catcher," said Derryl Cousins. "It was a pitchout and he hit the catcher's glove."

After missing a couple of earlier opportunities against Chris Haney (1-1), the Orioles finally broke through against the left-hander in the bottom half of the sixth.

Luis Mercedes led off with a double to left and advanced to third on Mike Devereaux's sharp single to left. Davis followed with a line drive to center that went for a sacrifice fly -- again over the protest of the Royals.

McRae argued with third base umpire Mike Reilly that Mercedes had left the base too soon and should have been called out on the appeal. But that claim also was denied.

"When you lose, you lose alone," said McRae. "You don't get any of the breaks."

When Ripken followed Davis with a hit-and-run single to right, it influenced McRae to make a pitching change. Right-hander Tom Gordon replaced Haney and struck out Randy Milligan, but Hoiles hit a checked-swing roller that went for an infield hit and made the score 2-0.

The breakthrough marked only the third time in 91 innings that the Orioles had been able to score twice in the same inning.

Two innings later, Davis delivered another welcome sound with a long home run to left. "I'm not concerned about home runs, I'm just letting them happen," said Davis.

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