Mussina runs on empty, but has enough to win

April 19, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

For about one inning yesterday, Mike Mussina became, by his own definition, a "slop pitcher," though he won't apologize for it.

Mussina had worked so hard against California for seven innings, limiting the Angels to three runs and six hits, that by the time the eighth rolled around, he had little left.

"It [velocity] had dropped off a little bit," said Mussina, who threw 119 pitches. "I realized that and I stopped trying to be a hard-throwing pitcher and started being a slop pitcher."

That slop, which consisted of a few sinkers, sliders and changeups, mixed with mental sharpness and an eighth-inning Orioles rally, got Mussina (1-1) the victory in the Orioles' 4-3 win, with ninth-inning assistance from Gregg Olson.

It was Mussina's first win since his final start of last season, a 3-2 victory over Cleveland in the last series of the year.

And just as in that win, Mussina got the victory when the Orioles scratched together runs in their next at-bat.

Unlike last October, when Mussina needed home runs from Mike Devereaux and Glenn Davis to get the win, the Orioles scored two runs in the eighth yesterday on a 320-foot single off the wall by Brady Anderson and a 75-foot dribbler down the third-base line by Cal Ripken.

Mussina said: "My last two wins have been that kind of style, so even though some got away last year, they're starting to even out. I knew they would. I just have to go out there and keep doing the best I can."

Mussina, who ran his record to 5-0 in his past eight Camden Yards starts, pitched the game in three distinct stages.

In the opening four innings, he was brilliant, holding the Angels without a hit, walking two who subsequently were stranded.

"He had awfully good stuff. . . . His stuff was as good as I've seen in the first three or four innings," said California manager Buck Rodgers. "I don't know what he was clocked at."

The Angels, however, made radar gun readings a moot point in the fifth and sixth innings by touching Mussina for three runs after he had been staked to a 2-0 lead.

"The first few innings were really too easy because then I started being too comfortable," said Mussina.

Tim Salmon doubled down the left-field line to open the fifth, and scored one batter later on Damion Easley's single to center.

In the next inning, Luis Polonia led off with a single to right, followed by a single by Chad Curtis.

Mussina struck out J. T. Snow, but then surrendered a double to designated hitter Chili Davis to left-center that scored Polonia and Curtis with the go-ahead runs.

"I started trying to throw it past them when I really should have done what I tried to do at the end of the game. That's the way things go," said Mussina.

From there, Mussina survived on guile, retiring eight of the next nine batters, and leaving Curtis, who walked with one out in the eighth, on base.

"In the eighth inning, he was out of gas," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "He dropped off from 90 [mph] to 84. And he still got us through the eighth.

"He's just a tough kid. It was the combination of being able to make adjustments, moving the ball around and not trying to throw the ball by people."

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