Devereaux, Davis HRs in 9th, 10th bail out Mussina Last-out homer aids 18th win, 3-2

October 02, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- It was just the first game of a meaningless series with the Cleveland Indians, but it meant something to Mike Mussina and it meant something to Glenn Davis and it definitely meant something to Mike Devereaux. That much became very apparent in the final innings of the Orioles' dramatic 3-2 victory at Cleveland Stadium.

Mussina worked nine tough innings in pursuit of his 18th victory, but it was Devereaux who saved him from defeat with a last-gasp two-run homer in the ninth and it was Davis who put him over the top with a bases-empty shot in the 10th.

The two home runs kept the Orioles in the hunt for a 90-win season and helped Mussina close out his first full season in the major leagues with some very impressive credentials. Gregg Olson pitched in, too, recording his 36th save with the help of another late-inning contribution from Devereaux.

The Orioles center fielder made a spectacular diving catch to rob rookie catcher Jesse Levis of a leadoff double in the bottom of the 10th, and injured himself in the process. He apparently sprained his thumb on the play and left the stadium in a splint. He'll undergo precautionary X-rays today and is doubtful for the remainder of the series.

If there was any question about the club's intensity entering this play-out-the-string series, it was answered throughout the evening. Bill Ripken slid hard into second base to try to break up a double play in the third inning. Brady Anderson made a diving stop to prevent extra bases a few minutes later.

"I think the intensity has been there," manager Johnny Oates said. "We haven't won as many ballgames as I might have liked, but the effort has been there."

The Orioles appeared ready to go down quietly in the ninth inning. Dennis Cook had carried a one-hitter through seven. Reliever Eric Plunk had worked the eighth and was about to close out the ninth. He was working with two outs and a 1-2 count when Devereaux yanked a hanging curveball over the left-field fence for his 24th home run of the year.

"His fastball was getting by me," Devereaux said, "so I was just trying to get a hit. Then he hung the curve a little bit and I got a good piece of it."

Mussina returned to pitch the bottom of the ninth and put himself in position to win when Davis victimized Plunk with his 13th homer of the year in the 10th. The victory improved his record to 18-5 and dropped his ERA to 2.54.

"Today was a perfect example of hanging on as long as I could," Mussina said. "I said all year that they are going to score eventually. I didn't think it was going to take all night, but we came alive for two innings."

It has been a breakthrough season for Mussina, who will finish the season leading the American League with a .783 winning percentage and rank among the league leaders in ERA, victories, shutouts and opponents' batting average.

He might be the odds-on candidate for the Cy Young Award but for a handful of games in which he left with a lead and ended up with no decision. The case could be made for choosing him over the league's three 20-game winners, but it would be harder to rank him above Boston's Roger Clemens, who leads the league with a 2.41 ERA and leads Mussina in several other categories. He also figures to place behind Oakland stopper Dennis Eckersley.

Mussina probably narrowed the gap last night, but he struggled through the early innings, falling behind in the second when Paul Sorrento led off with a sharp double to right and scored on a one-out single by Carlos Martinez.

The Indians had five hits in the first three innings, which wouldn't be particularly significant if Mussina had not been so dominating in his previous six starts. He had pitched into the eighth inning or later in all of those games and had given up an average of only five hits in each.

His winning streak dates back even further. Mussina has not lost since he dropped an 8-4 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 10. Since then, he has given up two runs or fewer in seven of nine starts and has an ERA of 1.75.

He didn't fool Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga, who doubled twice and singled in his first three at-bats to inch closer to his first 200-hit season. Baerga needs just two more hits to become the first second baseman in American League history to hit .300 with at least 200 hits, 20 home runs and 100 RBI in the

same season.

The only National League second baseman to reach those statistical levels in one season was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did it five times.

Baerga had Mussina's number, but he couldn't do much with it. None of his hits contributed to a score and he flied out in his only at-bat with a runner on base.

Mussina settled in for the long haul, but he had to outlast an Indians ballclub that has been very resourceful in the second half and a starting pitcher who was very much on top of his game.

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