Mussina rocked by Rangers Gonzalez's 2 HRs hand O's 6-3 loss

April 13, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It didn't take much of a search, but the Orioles and Mike Mussina have found a new nemesis. Which means White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas can move over and make room for Juan Gonzalez, the baby wunderkind of the Texas Rangers.

Last year's major-league home run champion hit two more last night as the Rangers came from behind twice to hand the Orioles their fifth loss in six games, 6-3.

Gonzalez's home runs and another by catcher John Russell came off Mussina (0-1), who gave up eight hits and all of Texas' runs in seven innings. It marked only the 12th time in 46 career starts that Mussina has allowed more than three runs.

The home runs by Gonzalez, who hit 43 last year at age 22, were the fourth and fifth he has hit off Mussina -- and the seventh and eighth against the Orioles in his career of less than three years. By comparison, Thomas has three home runs and five RBI against Mussina -- five homers and 13 RBI against the Orioles.

"He swung the bat pretty good against Mike last year," manager Johnny Oates said of Gonzalez. "Mike handled him pretty good last week, but tonight he [Mussina] basically had only one pitch for five innings.

"He held down a pretty good team for five innings with just a fastball," Oates said of his ace right-hander. "Everything else was up.

"You've got to give them [the Rangers] some credit -- they're playing well. And for everything they're doing right, we're not executing," said Oates.

Last night's loss broke a seven-game winning streak for Mussina, covering 10 starts dating to Aug. 10, when he dropped an 8-4 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I didn't pitch very well," said Mussina. "I threw some very hittable pitches in two-strike counts -- six of their eight hits came on two-strike pitches."

Mussina could not explain his difficulties with Gonzalez, who has hit five home runs in only 20 at-bats. "I don't know," said Mussina. "One day I do pretty well and the next time I don't. I don't know what it is -- I guess he figures me out and I haven't adjusted well enough."

The Orioles had taken brief 1-0 and 3-2 leads against Charlie Leibrandt (1-0), but each time Mussina yielded the long ball.

Gonzalez tied the game with his first homer in the second inning, Russell did the same with his fifth-inning blast and Gonzalez applied the cruncher with his two-run, game-winner in the sixth.

Leibrandt struggled through most of the six innings he worked, giving up eight hits, before turning the game over to the Rangers' revamped bullpen. Right-hander Matt Whiteside and left-hander Bob Patterson took the lead into the ninth inning, and Tom Henke picked up his fourth save by getting Mike Devereaux, representing the tying run, to hit into a game-ending double play.

The Orioles' first run came gift-wrapped in the second inning, but they missed an opportunity to inflict more serious damage. After Harold Baines led off with a double, Leibrandt used self-defense to snare a drive through the middle off the bat of Chris Hoiles for the first out.

Leo Gomez then lofted a soft fly to right field that fell for a single when Jose Canseco lost the ball in the dusk. With runners on first and third, Luis Mercedes struck out before Harold Reynolds and Brady Anderson drew back-to-back walks to force in a run.

The run was the first allowed by Leibrandt in 31 regular-season innings, dating to last year, when he was with the Atlanta Braves. The left-hander finally got out of the inning by inducing Devereaux to hit a soft grounder on a 3-1 pitch.

The lead lasted only until Gonzalez got a chance to swing for the first time, homering as the leadoff hitter in the bottom half of the inning.

Singles by Julio Franco and Russell were sandwiched around a strikeout by Dean Palmer, setting up a squeeze bunt by Bill Ripken that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

The Orioles struck for two runs off Leibrandt in the fourth, but again missed a knockout opportunity. Hoiles opened with a double to left and went to third on a Gomez single.

With runners at the corners and nobody out, Mercedes popped to Ripken at second base. Reynolds then looped a single to left-center field, breaking an 0-for-14 streak and getting his first hit and RBI as an Oriole.

With the score tied, Anderson hit into a force, but Devereaux responded with a double into the left-field corner, scoring Gomez for a 3-2 lead. Cal Ripken was given an intentional walk but Glenn Davis, a strikeout victim in his first two at-bats, hit a tapper back to Leibrandt.

Mussina had retired eight in a row when Russell led off the Rangers' fifth with a mammoth 413-foot home run to re-tie the score.

An inning later, Mussina again was tormented by the long ball -- and again it came from the most familiar source in the American League. After a Canseco single, Gonzalez's 407-foot blast to left-center gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead.

A single by Bill Ripken, a sacrifice bunt by Benji Gil, an error by Cal Ripken when Davis came off the bag to take the throw, and TC sacrifice fly by Palmeiro gave the Rangers an unearned run and a 6-3 lead in the seventh.

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