Bullpen blasted in 8-2 O's loss

April 21, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

The Inning on Elm Street, co-starring Orioles relievers Alan Mills and Brad Pennington, received thumbs-down reviews last night from a Camden Yards crowd of 45,851 critics.

Mills and Pennington unwittingly conspired to turn a game that was tied in the ninth inning into an 8-2 loss to the California Angels.

The Angels sent 12 batters to the plate in the ninth and turned six hits and three walks into six runs.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates remained faithful to his promise to keep an eye on the pitch counts of his starting pitchers.

Oates watched Mike Mussina's pitch count reach the alert zone, acted accordingly, then watched his bullpen turn a tie game into a rout.

Mussina (3-1) pitched one out into the ninth and left a 2-2 game in the hands of Mills, who had stranded the previous eight runners he inherited.

Mills faced five batters last night. Four reached and the other drove in a run as Mills' ERA soared to 24.92.

After Chili Davis' RBI single capped Mills' struggle, and put the Orioles four runs behind, Brad Pennington came on and fared as poorly. The first four batters reached against Pennington, who issued a bases-loaded walk to Harold Reynolds.

The inning called attention to the struggles of a bullpen that of late has had trouble getting hitters out after long man Mark Williamson and before closer Lee Smith.

Pennington had allowed eight consecutive batters to reach base before retiring Gary DiSarcina on a popup for the final out of the ninth.

In his past two appearances, Mills has allowed seven earned runs in one-third of an inning. Pennington, Mills, Jim Poole and Mark Eichhorn have a combined 13.22 ERA.

Mussina's strong outing seemed a distant memory by the time the ninth ended.

"He was through," said Oates, who pulled Mussina after a one-out single by Reynolds (3-for-4) to a chorus of boos. "He was tired."

Mussina didn't question the move.

"There was nothing wrong with that decision," Mussina said. "I Mills comes in and gets the next two guys out, nobody says anything. . . . I don't remember anyone booing when Mills came in for me against Texas and struck out three in a row."

The boos directed at Oates -- who after 122 pitches (only 35 balls) had seen enough -- turned to respectful cheers for Mussina as he made his way into the dugout. He allowed nine hits, walked one, and struck out six. He was charged with allowing three runs.

"If I pitch that way every time, seven out of the 10 times I'm going to win and two of the other three I'm going to get a no-decision," Mussina said. "The other guy pitched better this time."

Mark Leiter (2-0, 2.57) earned the win, limiting the Orioles to two runs over eight innings. He walked one and struck out six.

Mussina took a 2-1 lead into the sixth, an inning that started with him doing something he rarely does, allowing the leadoff man to reach. Mussina has taken the mound to start 31 innings and has put the leadoff man on just five times.

Reynolds tied the score, 2-2, with a two-out line single to center that scored Davis, who had doubled.

The Angels got on the board in the first without hitting the ball in the air. Dwight Smith reached on a one-out bunt to the right side, took second on Davis' walk and scored on Jim Edmonds' ground single.

Leiter had a 1-0 lead until the fifth, when Cal Ripken and Mark McLemore reached on line singles and scored on Jeffrey Hammonds' double, putting the Orioles up 2-1.

It was the ninth extra-base hit and ninth and 10th RBI foHammonds, the Orioles' ninth-place hitter. Thirteen games into last year, the Orioles had received one RBI and no extra-base hits from the No. 9 hole.

Needless to say, the Stanford pipeline has served the Orioles well, feeding them Hammonds and Mussina.

Going into last night's schedule, Mussina had been the only American League East pitcher to win a game (3-1, at Detroit) when supported by as few as three runs.

Discount the 12 starts Mussina made during his rookie season and the 13 he made after the June 6 brawl against Seattle last season, and consider the resulting numbers: a 29-7 record with a 2.69 ERA in 47 starts, heading into last night's start.

In all, Mussina has the highest winning percentage of any pitcher in Orioles history.

He took a 39-16 record into the night, a .709 success rate that places him second only to Toronto's Juan Guzman (.778) among active pitchers with at least 50 decisions.

Mussina and Leiter both started their professional baseball careers in the Orioles' system, but the similarities don't extend much beyond that.

For Leiter, major-league success was much longer in coming than for Mussina, who reached the big time after 28 minor-league starts.

Leiter, 31, was chosen in the fourth round by the Orioles in 1983 and released June 13, 1988, never having made it past Double-A.

A model of perseverence, Leiter underwent three shoulder operations and did not pitch an inning in three consecutive seasons (1986-88). He spent time with the Yankees and Detroit before signing with the Angels as a free agent March 22 of this spring, days after the Tigers released him.

Leiter held the Orioles hitless until Mike Devereaux singled to lead off the fourth.

Leiter threw wildly to first in an attempt to pick off Devereaux, who moved up a base on the error. Leiter evened the score, picking off Devereaux from second, a crucial mistake with Harold Baines standing at the plate awaiting Leiter's 3-0 delivery.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: California Angels

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Angels' Brian Anderson (1-0, 1.88) vs. Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (0-2, 11.25)

Tickets: About 3,000 remain, not including 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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