Clutch hitting, Mussina give O's a Royal lift, 6-5

April 25, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI — KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Orioles can be forgiven if they are looking everywhere for potential turning points. Was it the three-hit performance by slumping Mike Devereaux? Or Cal Ripken's two run-scoring hits in the late innings? Or Mark McLemore's first major-league home run in 4 1/2 years? Or any of a number of things that led up to yesterday's 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals?

The situation had become so desperate that manager Johnny Oates had to hang his hopes on the six-run comeback that fell short the night before, but there was much more to choose from on a very eventful Saturday afternoon at Royals Stadium.

The Orioles broke a three-game losing streak and hope they have snapped out of a prolonged slump with a late-inning offensive turnaround that carried starter Mike Mussina to his second victory.

Mussina pitched a solid 8 1/3 innings and Todd Frohwirth recorded his first save as the Orioles' substitute closer, but the pitching was only one of the subplots in a complicated game that might have gotten away on a couple of occasions if the long-suffering Orioles lineup had not found itself at just the right time. Here are just some of the highlights:

* Ripken brought the Orioles from behind with a two-out double in the eighth inning, then padded the lead in the ninth with a two-out RBI single that would turn out to be the difference in the game.

* McLemore made a couple of terrific defensive plays and then padded a one-run lead with a leadoff homer in the ninth inning -- his first home run since Aug. 18, 1988.

* First baseman Glenn Davis put the Orioles ahead to stay with a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning, after Royals reliever Jeff Montgomery intentionally walked Harold Baines to get to him.

* Devereaux, who entered the game hitting .182, turned in a 3-for-5 performance that raised his average to .211.

Who could blame Oates for being upbeat afterward? He saw signs of life as early as the fifth inning of Friday night's one-run loss, and he saw his team turn in a 13-hit performance yesterday that was the biggest of the young season.

"You could see the guys starting to swing the bat last night," he said. "Cal Jr., Glenn, Mac, Brady [Anderson]. But the whole thing comes down to Devereaux. He's the one guy that did something for the last two days that he hasn't been doing. He was hitting balls right on the meat of the bat."

The club depends heavily on Devereaux and Anderson to provide the offensive momentum, but Anderson has been trying to do it by himself through the first three weeks. So Devereaux was looking for a turning point himself.

"I hope it was," he said. "It will be great if it is, but I think it takes more than one day to turn things around. I need to have a few good games and get some breaks."

There was a point in yesterday's game when it looked like the Orioles were going to go down hard again. Mussina was pitching an outstanding game, but the club had scored just a run on four hits against Royals starter Hipolito Pichardo through the first five innings.

The Royals had come back from a run down on a two-run homer by outfielder Felix Jose in the fourth. Anderson answered with a leadoff home run in the sixth to tie the game, but the Royals scored a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Phil Hiatt and turned the game over to Montgomery.

Montgomery entered the game with four saves in four save opportunities, but he was not sharp. He got the first two outs of the eighth inning, but gave up a sharp single to Devereaux and a long double to Ripken that tied the game.

Ripken sent left fielder Chris Gwynn crashing into the fence, then scored the go-ahead run when Davis lined a single through the middle.

It was Davis' first RBI since he drove in four runs against the Texas Rangers on April 14. Ripken's single in the ninth gave him his first multiple-hit game since he had four hits against the Seattle Mariners on April 10. Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs.

McLemore did as much with his glove as he did with his bat. He made a diving stab to rob Keith Miller of a hit to lead off the eighth, a play that took on more importance when Brian McRae followed with a single.

Catcher Jeff Tackett also made a big play in the eighth, guessing right with a pitchout to nail McRae trying to steal second.

"Don't forget that one," Oates said. "He did that entirely on his own."

Oates has been talking about leadership -- or the lack of it -- over the past few weeks, but he was encouraged to see a number of players taking matters into their own hands.

McLemore's home run took some pressure off the pitching staff. So did the RBI single by Ripken that gave the Orioles a three-run advantage.

Mussina tried to do it all by himself. He gave up eight hits and did not strike out a batter, but was very much in control until the Royals came after him in the ninth.

"I was tired," Mussina said, "but I wanted to go out there and try to finish with a three-run lead."

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