Twenty-three days had passed since Mike Mussina's last defeat. He had gone all year without losing at Camden Yards. And he had earned his reputation as a stopper by going 46-23 in his career when pitching after an Orioles loss, including 4-1 this season.
Yesterday, he seemed a pretty good choice to reverse his club's downward spiral.
Yesterday, it wasn't in the cards, even with the Orioles showing their ace.
Two bad pitches in 6 1/3 innings were Mussina's undoing, as the Milwaukee Brewers completed their sweep with a 6-4 victory that brought some boos from what remained of a crowd of 47,448 at Camden Yards.
Dave Nilsson lined a changeup over the right-field scoreboard in the first inning for a two-run homer that gave the Brewers another early lead in the series. They led 1-0 after their initial at-bats in each of the first two games.
From there, Mussina retired 10 of the next 11 hitters. He helped himself out of a jam in the fifth, fielding a bunt by Jesse Levis to his right and firing to third to force Gerald Williams.
"That was about as good as you're going to see," pitching coach Ray Miller said.
Former Oriole Jeff Huson grounded into a double play, and Mussina went into the sixth with the score tied at 2.
Showing signs of wear from the 95-degree temperature and a lingering flu, Mussina gave up a leadoff double to Jeromy Burnitz before retiring the next two batters. Jose Valentin worked the count to 3-2, then doubled into the right-field corner to score Burnitz.
A wild pitch moved Valentin to third, where he had a shorter trot home after Jack Voigt hit his fourth homer of the season -- two coming in this series -- on a curveball that stayed up.
"An ex-Oriole trying to show we should have kept him," manager Davey Johnson said. "[Mussina] was going along pretty strong and then boom, boom."
Voigt, who played in Baltimore for parts of three seasons, struck out in the second and grounded out in the fourth. But they weren't wasted at-bats.
"He had thrown me a lot of off-speed pitches," Voigt said. "The second time up, he threw me a first-pitch changeup. I went back and analyzed some things and decided to just sit off-speed the rest of the day, and that seemed to work."
Mussina (10-3) was finished after walking Levis with one out in the seventh. He threw 102 pitches, and the five runs were the most he had allowed since May 18 in Seattle. He's 5-1 at home this year.
"He looks to me like he always throws good," Brewers manager Phil Garner said. "I've never seen him when I thought he was throwing bad."
Said Voigt: "He had a real good breaking ball, he spotted his changeup well. He made the one pitch to Nilsson and the other one to me. Jose Valentin hit a tough pitch that was down and in. It wasn't that he pitched bad, we just happened to hit some balls where nobody was."
Mussina took advantage of his last chance to escape trouble, leaving the clubhouse before the doors were opened to the media.
"I know how Moose is feeling," catcher Lenny Webster said. "I'm out there battling; I have a head cold and my sinuses are killing me, and he's going through the same thing. And he's pitching and I'm catching. I know I feel sluggish and tired. You don't like to make excuses, but that wears on a guy, especially pitching in this heat. But he did the best he could. He gave us all he had and that's all you can ask of a guy."
Perhaps a telling sign of what awaited the Orioles was Mussina's failure to dispose of Jeff Cirillo and Nilsson in the first inning. Cirillo was 2-for-19 in his career against the right-hander before his two-out single to left brought up Nilsson, who had been 1-for-20.
"Those two guys did a terrific job, considering what he's done to them," Garner said.
What Voigt did proved to be the clincher. Two bad pitches, and the Orioles were toast.
"When you're not scoring," Miller said, "you don't put any pressure back on the other team and you don't seem to get away with as many mistakes."
Mussina didn't get away with his yesterday.
Hits and misses
On the field: Mike Mussina looked as though he would escape a sixth-inning jam, which started with a leadoff double by Jeromy Burnitz. Mussina retired Jeff Cirillo on a grounder and Dave Nilsson on a long fly, but Jose Valentin ripped a 3-2 pitch into the right-field corner to break a 2-2 tie. Former Oriole Jack Voigt completed the damage with a two-run homer to left.
In the dugout: Manager Davey Johnson moved up Geronimo Berroa to second in the order, reasoning that left-handers being brought in to pitch to Brady Anderson then would have to contend with the right-handed-hitting Berroa.
In the clubhouse: Johnson was asked if he had gotten any reports on the conditioning of pitcher Rocky Coppinger, who will work out in Baltimore today and report to Double-A Bowie tomorrow. "I don't think he's been on any Jenny Craig or anything," Johnson said.
Pub Date: 7/14/97