Mussina shows Orioles pennant pitch they need

September 22, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Dick Bosman, the man in charge of such endeavors, knows the formula the Orioles need to follow to stay in the American League's Eastern Division race.

"How many games are left -- 12, 13?" the pitching coach said after the Orioles broke a three-game losing streak by beating the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1, last night. Told there were 13, Bosman revealed his game plan.

"What we need is 12 or 13 just like that," he said, referring to another masterful performance by Mike Mussina, who threw a complete-game seven-hitter to stall the Brewers' momentum and improve his record to 17-5. "That's what it'll take for us to win it."

Bosman is probably right -- flawless pitching is needed the rest of the way for the Orioles to catch the Toronto Blue Jays, the team they trail by five games and face the next three nights at Camden Yards. However, matching Mussina lately requires Cy Young Award credentials, which the 24-year-old right-hander has in abundance.

"I don't get a vote, but he's got to be one of the top contenders," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "He's not going to have 20 wins [he'll get two more starts], but when you look at everything else, I think you can throw a tent over them [the top Cy Young contenders]."

Mussina is third in the American League with a 2.53 ERA (behind Roger Clemens and Kevin Appier) and a .773 winning percentage (behind Jack Morris and Juan Guzman); second with four shutouts (one behind Clemens); fifth with 17 wins; sixth with eight complete games; tied for eighth with 224 innings pitched; and has held opponents to the fifth-lowest batting average (.235).

Last night, Mussina needed all of his resourcefulness to give Mike Devereaux a chance to win the game with a bases-loaded double in the fifth inning.

"He threw 99 pitches in the first five innings," said Oates. "They [the Brewers] made him work -- they took him deep into the count and they fouled off a lot of pitches.

"But in the last four innings, except for the curveball to [Bill] Spiers [a double in the seventh inning], he had everything under control."

Mussina threw 142 pitches, the most he has thrown as a professional, but he made it look easy at the end. He retired eight straight hitters after Spiers' double, and 13 of the last 14 he faced.

"I don't know what it was, but it wasn't until about the sixth inning that I was able to get the ball down," said Mussina. Before that he had to rely on guile -- and the team's defense.

"They were able to try the hit-and-run only once [a groundout by Seitzer in the fourth inning] and they tried to steal only once, and were thrown out [Greg Vaughn in the same inning]," said Mussina. "That tells me it was a good job on our part to keep them out of their game."

It was also in the fourth inning that a spectacular diving catch by shortstop Cal Ripken kept the Brewers from taking a 2-1 lead. In the first inning, left fielder Brady Anderson made a diving catch of Pat Listach's bid for a leadoff double.

"If it wasn't for the defense I might not have made it past the fifth or sixth inning," said Mussina, who faced his toughest challenge in the second inning. "When they got men on second and third with one out [after singles by Vaughn and B. J. Surhoff and an error by Devereaux], all I was thinking about was preventing the big inning.

"I was willing to give up one run to get another out, but I didn't want them to have a big inning. They had done that in each of the last three games, and I didn't want it to happen again."

As the game progressed, Mussina grew stronger, as did the Orioles' hopes of recharging themselves for the series against Toronto. "Nothing's changed," said Mussina. "We're still in it. We can go home feeling a lot better."

And Devereaux went home feeling a little more relaxed, because his bases-loaded double (he's now 12-for-21 in such situations) gave him 100 RBI for the season.

"I don't want to say I was worried about it [reaching 100], but it's been on my mind," he said. "When we came home from California I had 96 and then got only one at home, so it was definitely a long wait."

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