O's strike last, edge Clemens, 3-2

May 18, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

The pitching duel that was all it was advertised to be had ended and the superlatives started flowing.

Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina had just beaten the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, with a strong eight-inning outing and all he could talk about was how impressed he was with Roger Clemens, the losing pitcher despite striking out 11 and tossing a five-hitter.

"Roger was pitching unbelievable," Mussina said. "Whatever happened to him last year is far behind him now. He was all over the corners tonight. To watch him go out there and pitch the way he pitches is just amazing."

Clemens produced the 56th double-figures strikeout game of his career, but it wasn't good enough to top Mussina.

The Orioles' victory over Boston in the opener of a three-game series stopped a season-long three-game losing streak, moved them within three games of first-place New York in the American League East and within one game of second-place Boston.

Mussina led the way, limiting the Red Sox to two runs in eight innings, and was backed by three Harold Baines hits, including a home run. Lee Smith earned his major-league-leading 16th save in his 17th opportunity.

Smith, benefiting from a most generous strike three call from home plate umpire John Hirschbeck, retired Otis Nixon on an outside pitch, stranding a runner at second to preserve Mussina's victory.

Mussina (7-1, 2.45), tied for the major-league lead with seven wins, leading the league with 69 2/3 innings pitched and fourth in the league in ERA, allowed eight hits, two earned runs and one walk. He struck out seven.

Pitching a complete game, Clemens allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) and walked three.

"Sitting in the dugout watching those two you start thinking about a double no-hitter with 18 strikeouts on one side," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "It looked like Roger was headed for that tonight. Those type of thoughts go through your head on a night like this."

Cal Ripken, who has a team-leading 26 RBIs despite having only two home runs, drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Rafael Palmeiro from third in the eighth inning.

Extending his hitting streak to 19 games, longest in the majors this season, Palmeiro started the one-out rally with a single off shortstop Tim Naehring's glove and took third on Baines' slow ground single up the middle, Baines' third hit of the night off Clemens.

Baines drove a 3-1 fastball from Clemens over the left-field fence leading off the sixth to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

Naehring quickly responded, tying the game by clearing the left-field fence with a just-fair line drive off a full-count fastball from Mussina.

The Red Sox threatened in the eighth, putting runners on the corners with two-out singles from Mo Vaughn and Andre Dawson, but Mussina survived the inning with the score tied 2-2 after Scott Cooper flied deep to center.

In his previous six starts, Clemens had allowed one earned run four times and none twice. He had given up just 22 hits in 45 innings and had 45 strikeouts.

"For a while there, it was kind of funny," Mussina said. "It was one of those games where it was like, it's your turn to get three outs. OK, now it's my turn to get three outs. I wasn't even paying attention to what I was doing there for a while. I was just getting outs. Then when I started paying attention, they started scoring."

The bottom of the fifth featured high drama, when the Orioles loaded the bases with nobody out. If Las Vegas gave odds on such things, the Orioles would have been no better than even-money to score a run. Clemens has been that good lately.

Clemens struck out Brady Anderson for the first out. Next up was Mike Devereaux, who had a .174 lifetime average against Clemens coming into the game. Devereaux swung at a high-and-outside 2-0 fastball from Clemens, eliciting a groan from the crowd. Devereaux took a similar pitch for ball three, then drove a sacrifice fly deep to left to score Leo Gomez and tie the game, 1-1.

Mark McLemore advanced to third on the play, bringing up Palmeiro with runners on the corners. Boston second baseman Scott Fletcher stopped Palmeiro's screaming one-hopper and threw from his knees to second base for the inning-ending force play.

The Orioles had loaded the bases on walks to Gomez and McLemore, bringing up Jack Voigt. Clemens barehanded Voigt's bunt and threw to third ahead of Gomez. Third base umpire Rich Garcia called Gomez safe, ruling Clemens' throw had pulled Cooper off third.

Boston manager Butch Hobson argued the call, briefly delaying the drama.

During the first four innings, no base runner from either team advanced as far as second base.

The Orioles' best chance of knocking Clemens out of the game came in the second inning, when he deflected Gomez's hit with his pitching hand and had to take several warm-up tosses, the first of which hit the backstop.

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