Mussina, Orioles finish off Blue Jays, 4-1

May 12, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

For the Orioles, nothing feels better than downing a Canadian club on the rocks.

And they had just the man to do it last night. Mike Mussina was commissioned to complete the team's first sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in a dozen seasons.

In the process, he was asked to bury the team's past failures against the two-time defending World Series champions and give a day off to closer Lee Smith.

Score it a perfect night for Mussina and the Orioles, who swept the Blue Jays out of town with a 4-1 victory played before a sellout crowd of 47,386 at Camden Yards.

"Sweep, sweep, sweep," the crowd chanted as Mussina put the finishing touches on his first complete game since May 31, 1993.

Mussina pitched a seven-hitter, retired the last eight batters he faced, walked two, and struck out five. He allowed two hits past the fourth inning.

"The Blue Jays have been thorns in our sides for so long," Mussina said after throwing 113 pitches. "It's been a long time since we've played this well against the Jays."

The Orioles had not swept the Blue Jays since early in the Reagan administration, when Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak was 3 months old. To be exact, the Orioles last swept the Blue Jays on Aug. 30-31 and Sept. 1, 1982, in Toronto.

Facing the Blue Jays for the first time since Toronto manager Cito Gaston left him in the bullpen during last season's All-Star Game, Mussina (6-1, 2.48 ERA) ensured the Orioles of staying in second place in the American League East, a half-game behind the Yankees.

"That's something I have put behind me," Mussina said. "I don't look toward the All-Star Game. This team has got to get to the playoffs. Whether this team gets to the playoffs is much more important than whether I get to the All-Star Game. If I get to go, I get to go. If I get to go home, I get to go home."

If Mussina maintains this pace, Gaston -- who again will be the AL manager -- might kill any questions about whether he will use him against the National League by starting him.

But as Mussina said, such talk is secondary.

Games against teams from the AL East are of more import. Mussina had plenty of help winning this one.

Backed by the defense of right fielder Jack Voigt and the power hitting of Chris Hoiles and Harold Baines, Mussina pitched his way into the eighth inning for the sixth consecutive start and for the seventh time in eight 1994 starts.

He has pitched nine innings in back-to-back starts, though he had to settle for a no-decision last time in the Orioles' 4-2, 10-inning loss against Cleveland.

"The big man needed a night off," Mussina said of Smith, who had pitched three straight days. "He's been out there a lot. He's not going to save 105 games and if he does, he's going to break. I was just honored to be able to give him the night off."

Both the hits Mussina allowed after the fourth came in the seventh, when he escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam to start a string of eight consecutive outs to finish the game.

Thanks to the sweep, the Orioles (21-10) are off to their best start since 1970, when they went 22-9.

Despite his .235 batting average and high strikeout total (30), Hoiles has played a big part in helping the Orioles to the quick start. He hit a two-run home run to left in the Orioles' three-run sixth, the inning in which they knocked Toronto starter Todd Stottlemyre out of the game.

Hoiles' sixth home run, the second of the inning off Stottlemyre, gave Hoiles his 17th and 18th RBIs of the season. He has 12 RBIs in the Orioles' past 12 games.

"We were able to beat them the way they beat us the last couple of years," Hoiles said.

Baines started the sixth by crushing a home run that bounced off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right. Baines' fourth home run broke a 1-1 tie and amounted to the beginning of the end for Stottlemyre, who took an 8-1 lifetime record and 2.58 ERA against the Orioles into the start.

After Cal Ripken beat out a grounder to the hole at short for a single, Hoiles gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead five pitches after the score was tied.

Voigt, battling to stay in right field during Jeffrey Hammonds' absence, helped his cause by saving Mussina a run with his arm in the third inning, when he gunned a one-hop throw to the plate to nail Devon White, who was trying to score from third on Paul Molitor's fly ball.

Positioned perfectly on the play, Hoiles held his ground and took White's best shot without dropping the ball.

"I just tried to get rid of it quick and keep it low," Voigt said of his throw. "I tell you Chris hung in there all the way with Devon bearing down on him. He made a great play."

Added Mussina: "Jack made a good approach on the ball and a great throw. It could have been the turning point in the game."

The inning-ending double play kept the Orioles' deficit at 1-0.

Voigt robbed Molitor again in the sixth, making a leaping catch at the wall near the line.

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