Sabo, Baines go deep to back Mussina

June 22, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Harold Baines had three hits, drove in four runs and homered for the second night in a row last night. No big deal. Hitting is his designated role for the Orioles.

Mike Mussina limited the opposition to one run over seven innings and again stopped a losing streak. Being the stopper of the staff, this should come as no great surprise.

No, the surprising element of the Orioles' 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Camden Yards last night came from another source.

It came from Chris Sabo, something of a blend between Charlie Chaplin and Roberto Clemente in right field. Sabo made two standout catches among his five putouts in seven innings.

The crowd, which weathered a 46-minute rain delay in the top of the first inning, spent the early evening getting wet and the rest of the night clapping away the raindrops.

The loudest applause was saved for Sabo, whose trot back into the dugout at the end of the seventh was tracked on the Sony JumboTron.

A third baseman all of his career until he suffered a back injury and lost his job to Leo Gomez while on the disabled list, Sabo has started many double plays. He never had started one from the outfield until last night.

Racing to the corner in right, Sabo jumped to catch Matt Mieske's fly ball. He then slinged a throw to shortstop Cal Ripken, who stretched like a first baseman to double Dave Valle off of second base.

The last ball he handled before being removed for defensive replacement Jack Voigt, Alex Diaz's double off the scoreboard, was played flawlessly, as well. Earlier, he raced in and toward the line to make an anything-but-routine catch.

Sabo, he of Chaplinesque body language, doesn't always look smooth, but he does usually catch the ball in the outfield. He surrounds it first sometimes, but usually catches it.

"He takes an infielder's strides out there," manager Johnny Oates said. "Infielders take short, choppy steps for quick movement. Outfielders take elongated strides for covering a lot of ground. He runs like an infielder. He catches the ball like an infielder and he throws like an infielder."

Which is just fine with Oates.

"I'm glad we're not grading him on style points, but I'm not going to mess with him as long as he keeps making the plays," Oates said.

A Gold Glove outfielder?

"Tonight he was," Oates said. "Gold Arm, too."

Many more nights like this and more than just the two Sabo fans seated behind home plate will wear swimming goggles in honor of the player being cheered as loudly these days as he was booed earlier for requesting a trade.

Though Sabo received the loudest approval, Mussina was given the steadiest. He allowed one run on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

Mussina (10-4, 2.87) struck out the final batter of the inning to leave runners on base three times. He joined Ben McDonald and Kansas City's David Cone as 10-game winners in the American League. The Yankees' Jimmy Key became the majors' first 11-game winner last night.

Alan Mills pitched the eighth. Appearing in a non-save situation for the first time as an Oriole, Lee Smith pitched the ninth in order to work off the cobwebs. Smith had not appeared in a game in a week.

Mussina also was appreciative of Sabo's defense. "Instead of three straight doubles, we get a double play and we get out of the inning without giving up a run," he said.

Sabo's move to the outfield triggered some doubt.

"Sometimes you get a little skeptical about a move like that," Mussina said. "Then you see him out there every day running down fly balls hit during batting practice. He's working hard to get better at something he's not as good at as he'd like to be."

It's paying off.

"He made two great catches tonight he probably wouldn't have made 10 days ago," Mussina said.

As a means of getting Sabo's bat in the lineup, Oates moved him to the outfield 12 games ago, which meant a move to the bench for Voigt.

"For someone who's never played there before, I think he's doing great out there," Voigt said. "I think it's awesome. I think it's a credit to Chris and it doesn't affect me one bit. I cash the same check he does if we get to the World Series."

Said Baines: "We got him for his offense and he's doing a good job offensively. He's doing the best he can in the outfield and that's all you can ask of anybody."

Baines' two-run home run in the sixth off starting and losing pitcher Bob Scanlan (0-4), his second in as many nights, gave the Orioles a 5-1 lead. Cal Ripken, drilled above the left elbow, reached in front of him.

While Scanlan struggled, Mussina cruised. The bullpen had been used a combined 11 innings the previous two nights, which might be cause for alarm on some nights. Not this night, however.

For the Orioles, the only thing more certain than Ripken's name being in the lineup is Mussina working into the late innings.

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