O's, Mussina tame Texas in 8-3 win Argumentative ace gets 10th victory with help of five-run sixth

Ripken, Alomar 3 hits each

Encouraging start to 10-game road trip

June 25, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- What a strange year Mike Mussina is having. He's giving up more homers than ever, more walks than usual, he's constantly bickering with umpires, and, in spite of all that, he wins.

Mussina walked four of the first 11 Texas Rangers last night, battled home plate umpire Chuck Meriwether all night over the parameters of the strike zone, and cruised to a 8-3 victory. Mussina improved his record to 10-4, and on the first night of an important 10-day road trip, the Orioles drew within three games of the New York Yankees in the AL East.

Cal Ripken had a homer, double and single and drove in two runs, and Roberto Alomar had two doubles and a single to pace the Orioles.

tTC There haven't been too many games this year when Mussina hasn't been in some sort of trouble, the bases crawling with runners. The Rangers didn't score until the sixth, after the Orioles led 7-0, but Mussina had to fight to get to that point.

Mussina gave up walks to Mark McLemore and Juan Gonzalez, around a single by Will Clark, and he went to a full count on Mickey Tettleton. A walk meant a run at that point. Mussina floated a 3-2 changeup to Tettleton, belt high, and Tettleton took it for strike three. Dean Palmer grounded out to end that threat.

Mussina walked another in the second, and McLemore leading off the third, and Mussina and Meriwether dueled over balls and strikes, Mussina constantly yelling in to home. No inning was simple, nothing came easy -- except victory, in the end.

The Orioles were not efficient in the early innings against Texas starter Bobby Witt.

Alomar doubled with two outs and then violated all rules of common sense by getting thrown out stealing third, with the left-handed-hitting Rafael Palmeiro at the plate. Brady Anderson tripled with two outs in the third and Luis Polonia struck out. Anderson was hit by a pitch in the fifth -- the 11th time he's been hit this year, a career high -- and he, too, was cut down stealing.

They weren't efficient. But ultimately, they were effective, thanks to Ripken and a fair share of good fortune.

Ripken carried another streak into last night's game, besides his run of consecutive games, which reached 2,225. He homered in his last two at-bats June 21, struck out twice amid two walks Saturday, and struck out in all three of his at-bats Sunday. All or nothing: Ripken had homered or struck out in his last seven at-bats before last night.

He kept that streak alive. Two outs into the second inning, Witt threw him a thigh-high fastball, through the eye of the strike zone. In April, Ripken might've flat missed this pitch. In May, he might've hooked it foul.

But it's June, Ripken is hot, and he ripped the fastball on a line to left, the ball reaching the stands almost instantly -- his 13th homer in his last 28 games, his 15th of the year. Ripken is on a pace to challenge his career high of 34 homers; he's on a pace to hit 33.

Alomar hit a hard smash up the middle leading off the fourth, and Rangers second baseman McLemore dove. The ball hit off the tip of his glove, rolled and died in short center field, and Alomar sprinted into second base with a double.

Witt walked Palmeiro on four pitches. Alomar tagged up and moved to third when Bobby Bonilla flied to left. Even with Ripken coming up, ranking fourth in the AL in RBIs for the month of June with 23, this was not a bad situation for Witt. A slow, right-handed hitter at the plate, a pull hitter with a fair chance of hitting into a double play.

Witt attacked the outside corner, trying to get Ripken to ground to the left side. He did, pulling a deliberate bounder -- just between third baseman Dean Palmer and shortstop Kevin Elster. Alomar scored the Orioles' second run.

But Witt's bad luck did not stop there. Alomar led off the sixth with an infield hit and moved to second on Palmeiro's hit-and-run one-hopper to first base. Bonilla also pulled a grounder to the right side, for the second out; Alomar took third.

Ripken walked on a 3-2 breaking ball just under his chin. Witt seemed out of the inning when B. J. Surhoff hit a pop fly into short right, but the ball fell between McLemore, right fielder Juan Gonzalez and center fielder Darryl Hamilton, and Alomar scored.

Witt made another good pitch to catcher Chris Hoiles, in and on the fists, but Hoiles muscled a looping liner over shortstop. Ripken rambled home, and Witt, relieved by right-hander Gil Heredia, stalked off the mound in frustration. The Orioles had scored four runs, three on a series of bloopers and cheap hits.

The Orioles, beaten 26-7 here in April, piled it on. Mark Smith's infield single (another cheap hit) loaded the bases, and facing lefty Ed Vosberg, Anderson walked to force in a run. Mike Devereaux, pinch-hitting for Polonia, singled home two more runs. Devereaux is 5-for-9 as a pinch hitter this season.

Alomar, the 10th hitter in the sixth, flied to deep left to end the inning, one of the hardest-hit balls of the inning.

The Rangers scored a run in the sixth and two in the seventh against Mussina, before the Orioles' bullpen took over.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: The Ballpark in Arlington

Time: 8: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' David Wells (4-6, 5.46) vs. Rangers' Kevin Gross (7-5, 5.26)

On track

After a rough stretch, including a 3 2/3 -inning, nine-run outing June 9, Orioles ace Mike Mussina has put together three impressive starts:

Date .. Opp. .. IP .. H .. ER .. SO .. .. Res.

6/24 .. Tex. .. 6 2/3 .. 6 ... 3 ... 5 ... W, 8-3

6/19 .. Tex. ... 7 .. 7 ... 3 ... 8 ... L, 3-2

6/14 .. K.C. ... 9 .. 7 ... 1 ... 4 ... W, 6-1

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