Orioles salvage Mussina's 17th win, 4-1 Devereaux's 3-run double helps avert series sweep

September 22, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- The Orioles put a happy ending on an otherwise disastrous four-day road trip last night, averting a series sweep with a 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before returning home for what has become a much less meaningful showdown with the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays.

Right-hander Mike Mussina recorded his 17th victory and Mike Devereaux delivered a bases-loaded double to reach 100 RBI as the Orioles took a half-step back in the right direction. They are five games behind Toronto with 13 to play.

Mussina went all the way and gave up a run on seven hits to record his sixth straight victory. His record climbed to 17-5 and his ERA dropped to 2.53. If he pitches as well in his last two starts, he should be prominent among the candidates for the Cy Young Award.

Devereaux came up with two outs in the fifth inning and lined a shot to left that made him the first Orioles outfielder to reach 100 RBI since Ken Singleton in 1980. The three-run double broke a 1-1 tie and sent Brewers starter Bill Wegman to his third defeat in three 1992 decisions against the Orioles.

The series couldn't have gone better for the Blue Jays. The Brewers won three of four to knock the Orioles out of second place, but only gained a half-game in the process. Milwaukee stands 4 1/2 games off the pace and can only hope that the Orioles sweep the Blue Jays and turn it back into a three-team race.

"Going into the ballgame, I figured to have any realistic chance at all, we needed to win four games in a row," manager Johnny Oates said. "To have a realistic chance, we have to sweep Toronto, and until they win a game, I'll believe we will sweep."

It is a tall order, but the Orioles finally showed signs of life last night, playing sharp defense and delivering a couple of key hits ++ to drop Wegman to 12-14 on the season.

Oates had lectured his players on Sunday, hoping to shake the team out of a funk that gripped everyone during the final four innings of an ugly, 9-3 defeat. The team looked far more alive last night, as evidenced by a hustling play by Joe Orsulak to set up the first run of the game and a couple of great defensive plays to protect Mussina's eighth complete game of the year.

"Orsulak beat out a routine double-play ball to get on base and Junior [Cal Ripken] made a great play to save a run," Oates said. "That's all I have to say about this ballclub. I think that exemplifies the character this team has shown all year."

The Orioles finally got around to Mussina, though it might have been too late to do them any good in the pennant race. He came into last night's game with a five-game winning streak and a chance to embellish some Cy Young-caliber statistics, but it was not the pressure start he probably thought it would be when the club arrived in Milwaukee four days earlier.

It was not a typical Mussina outing. He allowed seven base runners through the first four innings, but still pitched well enough to stay out of serious trouble. That was an accomplishment in itself against an aggressive Brewers offense that had been particularly difficult to pin down during the first three games of the series.

"I'm trying to think of something to say about him that I haven't said before," Oates said. "You just see him go out there consistently every time. He made an adjustment that a veteran pitcher would make. He had thrown 99 pitches after five innings, but he made an adjustment and closed it out in 141."

Randy Milligan had given the Orioles the lead in the top of the second inning with a line drive that would have gone out if it had 10 more inches of loft. The ball hit the top of the fence in center field and bounded right into the glove of Robin Yount. Milligan had to settle for a double, but Orsulak raced all the way around from first base to score.

The Brewers came right back in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of two singles and a bobble by Devereaux that allowed the runners to advance to second and third with one out. Kevin Seitzer brought home the tying run with a grounder.

Four of the first nine Milwaukee batters hit safely, which was an indication that Mussina was not exactly on his game. In his previous four games, he had pitched no fewer than eight innings and had given up no more than six hits. This time, his pitch count was very high after three innings (57) and his control wavered in the fourth and fifth.

Nevertheless, he got the same kind of results. He had given up just three earned runs in those four previous starts, which was a prerequisite for winning with an Orioles offensive unit that had been averaging little more than two runs a game during the past 2 1/2 weeks.

This time, he needed some help. Brady Anderson made a fine running catch to rob Pat Listach of a hit in the first and Ripken made a spectacular diving play to steal an RBI single from John Jaha. Then he settled down to dominate the Brewers the final four innings to go the distance for the third time in a row.

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