Mussina 6-hitter leaves A's all starry eyed O's ace gets AL vote of La Russa in 3-1 win

June 01, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

OAKLAND, CALIF — OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mike Mussina continues to build his case. He threw a six-hitter yesterday to join the winningest pitchers in the American League. He lowered his ERA to 2.89 after a brief stay among the mere humans above 3.00. So, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to see him delivering the first pitch of the 1993 All-Star Game.

Not a stretch at all, in fact, since the midseason classic will be at Camden Yards and Mussina will get some extra consideration if he continues to come up with performances like the one he delivered in yesterday's 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.

He took a shutout into the seventh inning and went the distance for the third time this year, prompting Oakland manager Tony LaRussa to call it the best performance of the season against his club. Now, that's a stretch, since Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson took a no-hitter into the ninth and struck out 14 May 16, but you get the idea.

Mussina improved his record to 7-2 to move into a tie with Jack McDowell and Scott Sanderson for the league lead in victories. He also is tied for the lead in shutouts with two. But he wasn't ready to talk about the possibility of an All-Star start.

"I can't sit here after 11 starts and say I'd like to start the All-Star Game," he said. "Sure, I'd like to start the game, but there's a lot of baseball to be played. I've got six more starts before they pick the team."

There is no reason to expect any significant downturn in Mussina's performance between now and then. He has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball since he arrived in the major leagues during the summer of 1991. In his first 11 starts of 1993, he has pitched through eight innings nine times. In his past seven starts, he has given up more than two runs only once.

It takes that kind of performance to win consistently for the Orioles, who remain the lowest scoring team in the American League. Mussina got by with one run -- and held the A's to just one hit -- until Cal Ripken and Mike Devereaux each doubled home a run in the sixth.

The A's scored a run on two hits in the seventh and had the tying run at the plate with two outs, but Mussina struck out pinch hitter Dale Sveum with a nasty 3-2 changeup to end the inning. Mussina also gave up base hits in the eighth and ninth and easily worked out of trouble.

"He made some super pitches," manager Johnny Oates said. "I guess if you had to pick one, it was that 3-2 changeup. That just shows you how much confidence he has in his pitches. That's why he is so tough, because you never know what you are getting."

Somebody had to get tough to get the Orioles out of another tailspin. They had opened this tough, 10-game road trip by taking three of four games from the contending New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, but were swept in a three-game weekend series in Anaheim against the California Angels.

"It doesn't matter if you're coming off a sweep or a five-game winning streak," Oates said. "With the consistency that he has, you always go out there feeling like if you get a couple of runs, you've got a great chance to win."

Mussina, back in the Bay area where he emerged as one of the best college pitchers in the country, said he was especially pumped up pitching in front of a small crowd of friends and former Stanford University teammates.

"I was intense," he said. "I was a lot more emotionally involved than I usually am, and that can hurt you."

Nothing seems to bother him, though. He struggled two starts ago in a three-inning performance that was one of the worst of his major-league career, but came back to give up six hits over 8 1/3 innings in New York last week and threw one of his best games of the year yesterday. At least, that's the way La Russa saw it.

"I don't know about that," Mussina said. "I'm just happy when I can go out and keep our team in the game. They were in the game all the way. . . . 3-0 is not out of the game."

The Orioles continue to struggle at the plate. Oakland starter Ron Darling gave up just four hits over 6 2/3 innings before turning the game over to the Oakland bullpen.

Nevertheless, Devereaux had another solid day. He doubled home the second run in the sixth and singled in the eighth to put together his second straight multi-hit game.

"I feel like things are coming around," said Devereaux, who has hit safely in every game since he returned from the disabled list on Thursday. "But I don't feel like I'm back to where I was when I left."

That's to be expected, but Devereaux still has managed to be productive as he works his way back into midseason form. He has driven in runs in three of the five games he has played since his return and has seven hits in 22 at-bats (.318).

Ripken also continues to rebound. The run-scoring double lefthim with an RBI hit in each of the past three games and five of the last eight. He is 6-for-12 since his average fell to .199 Friday night.

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