Red Sox hit stride, run over Orioles Boston beats Mussina, uses 14-hit attack to end 7-game slide, 10-7

O's 17 hits are season high

Moyer gets victory

3-12 Sox avert sweep

April 19, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The beleaguered Boston Red Sox may have proved conclusively yesterday that there is a law of averages. They ran into Mike Mussina and a 17-hit Orioles attack and still ended their seven-game losing streak.

The Orioles appeared to be in perfect position to complete a three-game sweep at Camden Yards and add another discouraging chapter to the worst start in Red Sox history, but even their season-high hit parade could not keep the defending -- or is that defenseless? -- American League East champions from scoring a 10-7 victory.

Mussina gave up six runs over six innings and lost for the first time in four decisions, his bad fortune compounded by a couple of costly errors and the first shaky bullpen performance of the season. And still the Orioles (11-3) threatened to come back from a late five-run deficit, until Roberto Alomar came to the plate representing the tying run and struck out to end the game.

"There were a couple of innings where things mounted up for them and it was just their day," Mussina said. "Unfortunately, we just gave up more runs than we could make up."

The victory kept the Red Sox (3-12) from taking their divisional deficit into double digits and could be a sign that they are ready for the pendulum to swing the other way for a while. Their 14-hit performance was the biggest by any Orioles opponent this year and propelled former Orioles left-hander Jamie Moyer to his second victory.

"The way things turned out, we may have been lucky we weren't scheduled to play them the next series or next week," Mussina said. "Their hitters are coming around. [Wednesday] they seemed to be on the verge of busting out and we managed to get away with a win. There are going to be more than a few days when they hit the way they hit today.

"We don't play them again until July. We might be fortunate we played them when we did."

Mussina retired the first six batters he faced, but allowed four runs on five hits in the third inning and gave up two more runs in the fourth. He regrouped and retired eight of his last nine batters, only to see the game unravel further when reliever Jesse Orosco gave up two late-inning home runs and four more runs.

"I don't think I pitched that poorly," Mussina said. "I wasn't throwing it down the middle and getting hit right and left. I didn't walk anybody and I wasn't behind on the count. They just got a couple of first-pitch hits and a couple of two-strike hits. I thought I threw all right. Some days I am going to get by with that. Today I didn't."

He had won his first three starts in impressive fashion, giving up just five earned runs in 24 innings (1.88 ERA). The loss was the first by any Orioles pitcher other than rookie Jimmy Haynes (0-2).

"Mike threw the ball decently, but he didn't really hit his spots," manager Davey Johnson said. "If the bullpen could have kept us in there, we'd have had a chance."

Law of averages again. The Orioles' bullpen, which was considered a potential liability going into the season, had given up just one earned run in 34 2/3 innings going into yesterday's game.

Orosco gave up three runs in the seventh -- two of them on a home run by 1995 American League MVP Mo Vaughn -- and another in the eighth on a homer by catcher Mike Stanley. This time, that would be enough to hold off the resourceful Orioles.

The Orioles had jumped in front on a leadoff home run by Brady Anderson in the first inning. They had scored on a double by Mike Devereaux in the second and a bases-empty homer by Rafael Palmeiro in the third. Anderson and Devereaux, regular running mates in an earlier Orioles era, each had four hits and were prominent in another late-inning rush.

Devereaux singled home a run in the seventh. Anderson singled to lead off a two-run eighth. Both singled in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate. But it just isn't going to happen every time.

Alomar worked Red Sox closer Heathcliff Slocumb to a full count, but struck out on a high fastball.

So when was the last time Johnson had a team get 17 hits and lose?

"I can't remember," he said, "but I'm still getting adjusted to this -- DH thing. I've still got a little bit of the National League mentality, where I think that six runs is a lot of runs. When you're three or four runs down late in the game with a DH, that margin is not that great."

It wasn't a perfect afternoon for the defense either. Palmeiro cost the club an important out with a bad throw in the four-run third and Devereaux made a throwing error in the three-run seventh. Palmeiro has made three errors in the first 14 games, after making just four all last year.

The Orioles make a compelling case for the importance of good defense. They have made a total of six errors in their three losses this year and just five in their 11 victories.

Moyer pitched just well enough to get the victory, giving up four runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings to win for the second time in three decisions. He came into spring training in the same fifth starter/long reliever role he played with the Orioles, but has been the Red Sox's most productive starter during their difficult start.

Though the Red Sox appear to be busting out of their three-week slump, the road doesn't get any easier from here. They're in Cleveland tonight to open a three-game series with the defending AL champion Indians, who have won seven of their past eight games.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: The Ballpark at Arlington (Texas)

Time: 8: 35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Kent Mercker (1-0, 5.91) vs. Rangers' Roger Pavlik (3-0, 2.84)

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