Wengert ends Mussina run with shutout O's ace yields 3 runs in 5th after taxing 4th to end 6-game streak

3-0 loss cuts wild-card lead

A's starter 3rd no-name in 6 games to blank O's

August 29, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Mike Mussina will reach 20 victories for the first time in his career if he continues to pitch the way he did yesterday, but there are times when being merely good is not good enough.

Mussina came in with a six-game winning streak and would have made it seven with even modest offensive support, but Oakland starter Don Wengert pitched his first career shutout as the Athletics averted a three-game sweep with a 3-0 victory before 45,282 at Camden Yards.

For those keeping score at home, that's three shutouts in six games for a Baltimore batting order that otherwise averages six runs per game.

The Orioles head to Seattle for a four-game series against the Randy Johnson-less Mariners, but it isn't the Randy Johnsons who give them fits. It's the Shawn Boskies and the Dennis Springers and the Don Wengerts. And, yes, the Jamie Moyers -- the Orioles will try to beat the wily left-hander for the first time in four tries this season Saturday in Seattle.

"Springer and this guy, I don't think either one of them had ever thrown a shutout before," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "That's baseball."

Wengert scattered nine hits -- all singles -- and got out of a couple of early jams before settling in for the duration and pitching his first major-league complete game. How unlikely was that? He had pitched only four complete games in 67 minor-league starts before going his first 19 starts of 1996 without ever seeing the ninth inning.

"It's a great feeling," said Wengert, who joined the A's in 1995 as a reliever and entered the rotation in May. "I'm hoping it will give me a lot more confidence in my next start."

The victory was Wengert's second in 11 days against the Orioles. He held them to three runs over 6 1/3 innings in the finale of a five-game series in Oakland.

This time, he held them in check long enough for the struggling Chicago White Sox to move back to within a half-game of the wild-card lead.

"He threw well against us in Oakland and he threw well today," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "He shut us out. He threw his invisiball today. It just kind of disappeared. He threw his off-speed stuff for strikes and he threw it in the strike zone at any time in the count. If you're doing that, you're going to have success."

Mussina did not give up a hit through the first three innings, but he got into trouble in the fourth and had to overextend himself in that inning to strike out the heart of the A's batting order.

He overpowered Mark McGwire, Matt Stairs and Terry Steinbach, but didn't have as much on the ball when he returned to the mound for the fifth, when five straight Oakland hitters reached base with one out and the A's scored three times.

"I got to a certain point in the game where I had to expend a lot of energy to get out of trouble," Mussina said. "I came out of that [fourth] inning and didn't have the same stuff I had before. When you give up three runs over six innings, we're going to win a lot of games like that, but he pitched great.

"We knocked out nine singles and we didn't put them together, so we didn't win. It's pretty simple."

He got the first out of the fifth, but Ernie Young doubled to right-center and Mike Bordick walked before leadoff man Tony Batista singled to load the bases. Jose Herrera followed with a two-run double to right and that would be enough to frustrate the Orioles in their fifth attempt to go 10 games over .500.

Third baseman Scott Brosius drove in the only other run of the game with a single to center, then Mussina got out of the inning by coaxing McGwire into a double-play grounder.

The Orioles, who had squandered five base runners in the first two innings, threatened just one more time, putting two runners on in the seventh, only to have Roberto Alomar ground out to second to end the inning.

It was a marginally successful homestand. The Orioles won five of nine games against the Mariners, California Angels and A's. They play four against the Mariners at the Kingdome starting tonight and three against the Angels before returning home for four against the Detroit Tigers and three against the wild-card rival White Sox.

The schedule appears to favor them the rest of the way, with only eight games remaining against teams with winning records.

The Orioles have a combined 2-3 record in Seattle and California this year, but they have played very well on their last two road trips -- winning nine of 13 on an extended trip and then three of five against the A's in a one-stop West Coast swing.

Races at glance

The Orioles' position in the American League East and wild-card standings:

AL East ..... W-L .. GB

Yankees ... 74-58 .. --

Orioles ... 70-62 ... 4

Wild card ... W-L .. GB

Orioles ... 70-62 .. --

Chicago ... 71-64 ... 1/2

Seattle ... 69-63 ... 1

Boston .... 69-65 ... 2

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Kingdome, Seattle

Time: 10: 05

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

Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (8-11, 5.39) or Jimmy Haynes (3-6, 7.29) vs. undecided for Mariners

Hits and misses

On the field: Oakland right-hander Don Wengert bedeviled the Orioles' batting order for nine innings on the way to his first shutout, and his second victory over Baltimore in 11 days. Wengert pitched a solid 6 1/3 innings to defeat the Orioles, 9-6, on Aug. 18 in Oakland after giving up four runs on six hits and getting just one out in a relief appearance two days earlier.

In the dugout: Manager Davey Johnson chose to remove Mike Mussina from the game with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Mussina had thrown 110 pitches, and Johnson saw no reason to push him any further with the club three runs down. Right-hander Armando Benitez came on in relief and worked out of the jam.

In the clubhouse: Johnson felt that Mussina got out of sync in Oakland's three-run fifth inning. "He just got hit that one inning," Johnson said. "The sequence of pitches I wasn't really keen on. He was throwing a lot of fastballs to fastball hitters and he got some of them up."

Pub Date: 8/29/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.