Laboring pays off for Mussina, Smith

SIDELIGHT

July 24, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mike Mussina has had cleaner starts and Lee Smith smoother saves than the ones they earned Friday night at Oakland Coliseum.

Still, they counted.

Mussina earned his 14th victory and Smith his 31st save as the Orioles held on to defeat the Oakland Athletics, 5-4.

Mussina threw 133 pitches, survived three foul home runs and one real one, matched a career-high with six walks, struck out two and had only one one-two-three inning.

Mussina (14-4) allowed four runs in eight innings and Smith stranded a runner on second to earn the save.

Two-run home runs by Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Hoiles, both in the third inning, and a run-scoring single by Chris Sabo in the seventh all were needed for the Orioles to win the second game of the four-game series.

Mussina allowed three runs, three extra base hits and seven runners in the three innings, but led, 4-3. The A's thought so much of left-hander Mike Mohler's first major-league appearance of 1994 they sent him back to Triple-A Tacoma after he allowed three runs (two earned) in 2 1/3 innings.

Three Oakland infielders committed errors behind Mohler (0-1).

While Hoiles and Palmeiro provided the power and the Oakland infielders stumbled, Mussina labored his way to one of the more sloppy wins of his career, win No. 50 against 20 losses.

"I had no idea what was going on the first three innings," Mussina said. "I settled down the next three innings and I was irritated by the eighth inning. The eighth inning was adrenalin."

And the ninth inning was Smith's.

Smith did not allow a run for the first time in five appearances.

He finished better than he started. Continuing a recent trend, he walked the leadoff hitter, Rickey Henderson.

Rather than let Henderson try to steal second, Oakland manager Tony La Russa had Stan Javier sacrifice him to second. Henderson already had the base stolen but Javier didn't pull back his bunt.

"I was kind of surprised they bunted there, but I appreciate the help," Smith said.

Smith continually stepped off the rubber with Henderson on second, but it didn't distract him to the point he couldn't take care of the hitters. Smith struck out Geronimo Berroa and retired Troy Neel on a hard smash to Cal Ripken, who needed to hurry his throw from his knees to get the runner.

"I felt pretty good throwing the ball," Smith said. "I thought I had a pretty good heater."

Smith's demeanor did not appear to change during a recent slump.

"I honestly don't think confidence is ever a factor with him," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "His confidence is going to be the same every time.

"He's been out there too long for too many years to let a couple of tough games get to him."

Smith smiles no less, jokes around no less now than he did when he opened the season with 12 consecutive saves.

"The way I look at it when the guy gets a hit off you he's a big-league hitter and you have nothing to be ashamed of," Smith said. "I don't get too excited when things are going good and I don't worry too much when they hit me."

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