Going up: O's alone in second

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

BOSTON -- The Orioles had second place in the American League East all to themselves yesterday. They go for a series sweep of the Boston Red Sox today. They start thinking about first place tomorrow, when they return home for a four-game series with the division-leading Yankees.

Yes, things are looking up for the Orioles.

One nice week has a way of changing outlooks when it comes at the right time.

The Orioles concluded their week with a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday, winning for the fifth time in six games and leaving them two games behind the Yankees.

"I kind of looked up here the other day and was, like, here we are only a couple of games out of first and we haven't even played that well yet," pitcher Mike Mussina said.

The Orioles played well yesterday.

The ace of a pitching staff brings out the best in his teammates, baseball people like to say. Baseball people sometimes say silly things, but that is not one of them.

With Mussina on the mound, the Orioles played big-league defense. The combination of Mussina's throwing strikes and his teammates' catching them kept the fading Red Sox off the base paths and in the loss column in a game played under sunshine and in front of 33,295 spectators at Fenway Park.

Losing for the seventh time in eight games, the Red Sox fell into third place.

Backed by nifty glove work from shortstop Cal Ripken, center fielder Mike Devereaux and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and ++ the bat of Harold Baines (2-for-4, two RBIs, home run No. 9), Mussina put them there.

Through eight innings, Mussina (9-3, 2.73) had allowed three base runners and had faced one over the minimum.

He took a two-hit shutout into the ninth and needed Alan Mills to get the final out. Mills earned his second save by retiring Andre Dawson on a foul popup to first.

Mussina's pitching line shows that he allowed five hits and two earned runs, walked one and struck out five in 8 2/3 innings.

It doesn't reveal that he was in control from the start.

After Palmeiro doubled in a run and Baines singled in another to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead, Mussina limited the Red Sox to leadoff singles in the first and second and a one-out walk in the fifth. He had retired 10 in a row heading into the ninth.

Through seven innings, Mussina had thrown 82 pitches. He threw 20 in a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Red Sox finally got to him in the ninth.

Mussina's bid for his first shutout since a two-hitter against the Minnesota Twins on May 5, 1993, at the Metrodome ended when Mo Vaughn hit a two-run, two-out, two-strike double to left in the ninth.

Damon Berryhill opened the ninth with a single and moved to third on Carlos Rodriguez's double.

Otis Nixon then lined out to Leo Gomez, who was standing in the right place at the right time.

"You get a few breaks when things are going good," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "A week ago, that ball would have gone down the line for a double or a triple."

John Valentin flied to right, bringing Vaughn to the plate. Mussina got ahead of Vaughn 0-and-2 and tried to come way inside with a fastball. It caught too much of the plate, and Vaughn sent it to left for a two-run double.

Exit Mussina. Enter Mills.

"He got tired after throwing 20 pitches in the eighth," Oates said of Mussina, who finished his day having thrown 119 pitches.

Mussina, building a case to become Cito Gaston's starter in the All-Star Game, leads the American League in innings (105 2/3 ), is tied for the league lead in wins and ranks among the league leaders in ERA.

"Vintage Mike," Oates said of yesterday's performance. "He's a very smart pitcher. He has an idea of what he wants to do and he executes it."

Slumping Boston right-hander Aaron Sele (5-3, 3.84) walked a career-high six and allowed five hits and five earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

The last time he faced the Orioles, May 18 at Camden Yards, Sele struck out nine and walked one, spinning a vicious curveball.

In his first 21 major-league starts, Sele allowed three earned runs or fewer every time and one earned run or fewer nine times.

In his past four starts, Sele has allowed six earned runs once, five twice and four once. He is 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA with 17 walks and 14 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings.

One day after the Orioles and Red Sox combined for 37 hits,

they produced only 10.

Baines' went the longest. He crushed a bases-empty home run to center for his ninth of the season and second in as many days at Fenway Park. It gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the sixth.

The Orioles scored two runs in the eighth. Mike Devereaux's single scored Baines from third and Mark McLemore from first.

Devereaux hit what in most parks would be a double down the third base line. But the angled wall in front of the seats forced the ball to bounce onto the grass in shallow left. Valentin picked it up, saw McLemore stop at third and lobbed a throw into second.

"If he throws it hard, I stay," McLemore said. "He lobbed it and I took off. I love running the bases. I like the idea of making people worry about me."

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Fenway Park, Boston

Time: 1:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Ben McDonald (8-4, 4.31) vs. Red Sox's Nate Minchey (0-0, 0.00)

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