Mussina, O's get happy returns Goes six innings to top Texas, 10-5

August 21, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Making his first start in almost a month, Mike Mussina pitched six strong innings last night as the Orioles opened a seven-game homestand with a 10-5 win over the Texas Rangers.

The win was only the second in the past 10 games for the Orioles, but was their eighth straight at Camden Yards, where they are 38-21 this season.

Coupled with Toronto's 4-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the victory enabled the Orioles to move to 5 1/2 games of the division-leading Blue Jays. They also moved within a half-game of the Boston Red Sox, 7-6 losers to the Cleveland Indians. The Orioles are 4 1/2 games behind the second-place New York Yankees, who beat the Kansas City Royals.

A three-run home run by Cal Ripken broke a scoreless tie and ignited a five-run fourth inning that enabled Mussina (12-4) to work his last three innings with a comfortable lead. The 24-year-old right-hander was making his first start since July 21 and earned his first victory since July 16, when he staggered to a 9-7 decision over the Minnesota Twins.

A strained muscle behind the right shoulder eventually landed Mussina on the disabled list, but his return showed only scant evidence of any damage.

"He doesn't walk many guys on four pitches [as Julio Franco did in the second inning], so that might be an indication that he's not completely his usual self," said manager Johnny Oates. "But he looked fine to me. His velocity was good and he made some good pitches to a pretty good offensive club."

Mussina said he felt no discomfort and was anxious to get on with the rest of the season.

"I'd like to put the events of the last two months behind me and try to do the best I can from here on out," he said after the game.

"I felt good, the back didn't give me any problems. But it felt a little strange because I haven't been out there for a while."

With two hits, a sacrifice fly and four RBI, Ripken was the Orioles' primary offensive contributor, but he had help. Mark Parent had a perfect night with three hits, a walk and two RBI; Tim Hulett drove in two runs with a double and home run, and Brady Anderson had a pair of hits and two RBI.

For the Rangers, Gary Redus drove in four runs with two home runs and Dean Palmer homered as the visitors almost came back from a 7-0 deficit. Mussina allowed six hits, including home runs by Redus and Palmer, in six-plus innings. Todd Frohwirth worked the last 2 2/3 innings to pick up his third save.

Last night's matchup featured a pairing of pitchers returning from the disabled list. Charlie Leibrandt missed two starts with a case of shoulder tendinitis.

The veteran left-hander, who won nine of 13 decisions before the All-Star break, had lost four straight before going on the DL on Aug. 2. For the first three innings last night, he was two batters away from perfection, allowing only a single to Harold Baines and a walk to Parent.

But the magic vanished in the fourth, when Mike Devereaux and Baines walked to start the inning, and Leibrandt wound up back on the DL before the night was over. Ripken rifled his 20th home run of the year just inside the left-field foul pole to start the fourth-inning run parade.

A single by David Segui, a double by Parent and another single by Anderson accounted for two more runs and finished Leibrandt. After the game it was revealed that Leibrandt's shoulder stiffened during the game and he was again placed on the 15-day DL. Right-hander Matt Whiteside was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Steve Dreyer, whose spot in the starting rotation was filled briefly by Leibrandt, got the final out of the fourth, but gave up two more runs the next inning.

A two-out double by Hulett, a walk to Harold Reynolds and a two-base hit by Parent gave the Orioles seven runs before the Rangers got on the scoreboard.

Redus led off the sixth inning for the Rangers with his fifth home run of the season. Rafael Palmeiro followed with a double, but Mussina retired the next three hitters before tiring in the seventh.

Palmer's 24th homer, a leadoff shot, and a single by Doug Strange signaled the end of Mussina's night and the beginning of the Orioles' anxiety. Left-hander John O'Donoghue got Manuel Lee to line out, but gave up a single to David Hulse and Redus' second homer of the game and the Orioles were left protecting a

7-5 lead.

Frohwrith replaced O'Donoghue following a walk to Palmeiro and got Juan Gonzalez on an infield fly, but Julio Franco kept the inning alive with a single to center. Palmeiro stole third before Ivan Rodriguez struck out on a 3-and-2 pitch to finally end the inning.

Hulett gave the Orioles a boost with his second home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh and the Orioles added another run on singles by Reynolds, Parent and Anderson. A double by Devereaux and a single by Baines preceded Ripken's sacrifice fly, which concluded the scoring.

"The big thing tonight was coming back and scoring those two runs after they scored four," said Mussina. "That was important, especially for a team that is struggling."

His assessment of the game was correct, but over the long haul the most important development for the Orioles was the return of Mussina. They can only hope that his remaining seven starts will produce enough wins to keep them in the race.

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