Jays double pleasure, top Mussina, 6-0 Overcome nemesis with 7 doubles among 12 hits off O's ace

5-hit shutout for Guzman

Alexander's 2nd game has its good and bad

July 17, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Nothing is the same at Camden Yards. Cal Ripken is the third baseman, Manny Alexander is the shortstop, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat up on Orioles ace Mike Mussina.

Toronto had seven doubles among 12 hits against Mussina in seven innings and beat the Orioles, 6-0, before 45,851. Juan Guzman pitched his second career shutout, allowing five hits.

With the loss, the Orioles dropped back to 10 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. New York beat Boston, 9-5, last night.

Alexander, starting his second game at shortstop since Ripken was moved to third, offered some good and some bad, hardly a surprise given his three-month layoff since spring training. After playing the entire game Monday without a fielding chance, Alexander had his first opportunity in the third inning last night, successfully fielding a grounder from Shawn Green.

In the sixth inning, with a runner on first, Alexander took a throw from second baseman Jeff Huson at the start of a potential double play. But he dropped the ball before throwing to first.

"I'm sure he's pressing," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson. "I told him to just relax and play aggressive."

Alexander struck out in his first at-bat and had a broken-bat bloop single in his second, his first hit since moving into the lineup.

In his third at-bat, Alexander tried bunting and popped the ball up the first base line. As he ran to first, the ball landed on his leg for an out.

Ripken, whose streak of 2,216 straight starts at shortstop ended Monday, fielded four grounders easily. On two of the four, he ranged far to his left to field grounders in front of Alexander, then threw across his body to first for outs. But much of it was an anticlimax as Toronto jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings.

There are nights when Mussina has a live fastball, when he can throw that fastball to the webbing of a glove, and mixes in his changeup and curveball to maximum effect.

Last night was not one of those nights. He threw strikes, but could not pinpoint his fastball. Often he would throw to the corner and the ball would drift across the plate and the Blue Jays would hammer away. The first 17 Toronto hitters had a whopping six doubles, balls ripped to the left-field and right-field corners. It was not known if the seven doubles for the night was a record.

"I'm struggling," Mussina said. "I'm not having the year I was hoping to have. That's the way it's going. I hope to turn it around soon."

Johnson was grateful for the effort, though.

"He threw pitches down the middle and wasn't mixing his pitches well, but he did a heck of a job keeping us in the game, knowing our bullpen was short," Johnson said. "I thought we'd get seven [innings] out of Mike. But I thought we'd get seven with two runs."

Mussina got through seven innings, but with a pitching line full of crooked numbers. Twelve hits, three walks, three strikeouts, five runs, all earned. Mussina (11-7) started the year 8-2, but has lost five of his last eight decisions.

His trouble against the Blue Jays is unusual. Going into last night's game, Mussina had a 6-1 record with a 1.87 ERA against Toronto during his career, and a 4-0 record with a 1.10 ERA at Camden Yards. He gave up more earned runs to Toronto in last night's home start than he had in all of his other starts combined (four).

Otis Nixon had the first double, leading off the game, and the Blue Jays' feast was on. Joe Carter singled in Toronto's first run in the first inning. John Olerud singled leading off the second, and Green and Sandy Martinez followed with back-to-back doubles, pushing Toronto's lead to 3-0.

If it weren't for a couple of outs on the bases, the Blue Jays may have had more. Martinez was thrown out at third on Alex Gonzalez's grounder back to Mussina. Gonzalez tried to steal second and when nobody covered, Chris Hoiles' throw bounced out into short center field. Second baseman Jeff Huson, in his first game since May, hustled to retrieve the ball, turned and fired homeward. The ball arrived a split second late, but Hoiles had planted his left leg in front of home plate. Blocked off, Gonzalez never touched home before Hoiles slapped a tag on him.

"[Alexander] was given coverage and he wasn't covering," Johnson said of the lack of a fielder to take the throw. "That's what you call in baseball a vapor lock."

The Blue Jays continued their assault in the third. With one out, Mussina walked Carlos Delgado -- very un-Mussina like -- and Carter doubled. Ed Sprague doubled, and two more runs came home.

Alan Mills began throwing in the Orioles bullpen, but in a way, Johnson had little choice but to leave Mussina in the game and fight through the beating. The Orioles were down to 11 pitchers with the injury to Roger McDowell, Arthur Rhodes was also unavailable because of shoulder soreness, and long reliever Kent Mercker is starting tonight because the Orioles were forced to play a doubleheader against the Yankees last Saturday.

Mussina completed seven innings, but there was too much early damage for the Orioles to overcome against Guzman (9-6), who didn't give up any walks and struck out four. The Orioles did not advance a runner past second.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays Site: Oriole Park

Time: 7: 35 TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Blue Jays' Erik Hanson (8-11, 6.55) vs. Orioles' Kent Mercker (3-6, 7.20)

Tickets: 4,400 remain

Pub Date: 7/17/96

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