Mussina hopeful strain won't hold him back

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

May 02, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Source: Milestones and MemoriesSun Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Mike Mussina was optimistic the strained groin muscle he suffered while pitching the Orioles to a 6-4 victory Saturday night over the Seattle Mariners at the Kingdome will not hold him back.

Mussina ran his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.89 by allowing one run in seven innings. He was pulled before the eighth with the Orioles leading 6-1. He said he first felt discomfort in the fourth inning.

"It's sore a little bit, but I don't think it's going to be a problem," he said. "It's something I used to get in high school playing football and basketball."

The Orioles have two off days before Mussina's next scheduled start, Friday, which would enable Orioles manager Johnny Oates to push Mussina back in the rotation if Mussina's leg needs more rest.

Mussina won his first duel against Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson, who struck out 11 batters and allowed nine hits in six innings.

"He had no-hit stuff and we got nine hits," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said.

Pitching plans undecided

Ben McDonald (5-0, 2.65) is scheduled to face Ron Darling (2-2, 4.60) tomorrow in the opener of a two-game series at Oakland and Sid Fernandez (1-0, 2.29) is scheduled to face Todd Van Poppel (0-3, 11.49) Wednesday.

War of words

As was the case the last time Mussina faced the Mariners, both benches emptied after a batter was hit by a pitch. Unlike last time, no punches were thrown and the batter had no quarrel with the pitch.

Last season's brawl, triggered when Mussina hit Bill Haselman with a pitch on the left shoulder after Seattle's Chris Bosio had thrown pitches behind Harold Reynolds and Mark McLemore, contributed to Mussina's second-half shoulder and back troubles after he was hurt in the brawl.

Benches emptied Saturday night when Johnson grazed Brady Anderson with a breaking ball in the sixth and the two exchanged angry words, but nothing more.

"It wasn't because he hit me," Anderson said. "I knew he wasn't trying to hit me. He barely hit me and it was a slider."

What brought on the verbal altercation?

"He was jawing at me like he didn't hit me, which he has a tendency to do," Anderson said. "And I was jawing back, which I have a tendency to do."

A dozen in a month

Lee Smith finished with 12 saves in 12 tries in April, reaching the dozen mark in the Orioles' 23rd game. Mitch Williams saved 12 in the Philadelphia Phillies' first 27 games last year, which had been the quickest arrival to 12.

Smith (0-0, 0.00) did not allow an earned run in the opening month. He pitched 10 2/3 innings, walked one and struck out nine.

For St. Louis last season, Smith saved 15 games in June, 12 in July and 10 in April.

Poole hit hard

Left-hander Jim Poole allowed back-to-back home runs to right-handed hitters Jay Buhner and Greg Pirkl in the Mariners' three-run eighth inning Saturday night. He fared better against left-handed hitters Ken Griffey and Eric Anthony, retiring both on fly balls to center.

Poole has inherited 10 runners and has not allowed one to score.

"I've had some success in those situations, but right now I'm not pitching well," said Poole, who retired Anthony again as the final batter in yesterday's 6-0 loss. "In order to have success over the long haul you have to pitch well."

An Orioles first

Mussina (5-1) and McDonald (5-0) form the first April five-game winner tandem in club history.

"Really?" an incredulous McDonald said. "That's hard to believe."

In 1971, when Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson won at least 20, McNally and Palmer were 4-0, Cuellar was 1-0 and Dobson was 1-2 at the end of April. In 1970, when Palmer, McNally and Cuellar were 20-game winners, each was 3-1 in April.

The McDonald-Mussina feat marked the first time in 20 years teammates have won five games in the opening month of the season. Ferguson Jenkins (5-1) and Jim Bibby (5-2) did it for the 1974 Texas Rangers.

Tough break

With catcher Mackey Sasser set to come off the disabled list, the Mariners have optioned Catonsville High graduate Jeff Nelson to Triple-A Calgary despite a 1.77 ERA in nine major-league appearances.

TEN TENDENCY

The Mariners' Randy Johnson on Saturday became the first pitcher this season to strike out 10 or more Orioles in a game. A look at the past five:

Date ... ... ... Pitcher, Team ... ... ... SO

4/30/94 .. .. .. Johnson, Sea. ... ... ... 11

8/24/93 .. .. .. Chuck Finley, Cal. .. ... 10

5/11/93 .. .. .. Roger Clemens, Bos. .. .. 13

9/13/92 .. .. .. Cal Eldred, Mil. .. .. .. 12

10/5/91 .. .. .. Mark Leiter, Det. ... ... 10

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