Mussina keeps O's on track Determined pitcher gets 12th victory, stops Devil Rays, 6-4

Club 30-8 since break

Bordick HR, Ripken's 3 hits boost offense

August 20, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Another start, another opponent and another typical night for Mike Mussina and his season-long novelty act.

The same guy who has mesmerized Camden Yards this season with a ruptured wart on his right index finger, a complete game pitched without throwing from the stretch, a near perfect game and a horrific line drive to the head did it again.

He gave his outfield seven innings off against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the Orioles broke a four-game home losing streak to the expansioneers with a 6-4 win.

"And I thought I was a fly ball pitcher," said Mussina, who struck out 10, walked one and induced 10 ground-ball outs.

No, just an entertaining one.

Behind Mussina (12-6), the Orioles generated a well-timed offense that allowed them to play from ahead throughout while the Devil Rays constantly had the tying run on base or at bat.

Shortstop Mike Bordick's three-run home run off Devil Rays starter Rolando Arrojo (11-10), three hits by the rejuvenated Cal Ripken and a telling sixth inning by right fielder Willie Greene provided Mussina enough support on offense. Closer Armando Benitez gave a tough-man exhibition with two perfect innings.

The pieces fit neatly. The win raised the Orioles to 68-58 -- the most games they've been above .500 -- and leaves them 30-8 since the All-Star break. During the second half, they are 21-3 when scoring first.

For Mussina, the win left him 6-1 since June 27. He has pitched at least seven innings in 10 of his past 12 starts and has allowed more than two earned runs only twice in that span. Mussina raised his career record at Camden Yards to 55-28.

His outfield had only to retrieve nine hits, as Mussina became the second Orioles starter this season to go at least five innings without an outfield putout. Scott Erickson did so during a hellish April start that lasted 5 1/3 innings. Mussina pulled the stunt in a functional 120-pitch performance.

"That's about par for my year. If something unique is going to happen, I'm the guy it's going to happen to. My finger. Getting hit with a ball. No stretch. Another perfect game late in the game. Now this," he said.

What was an unusual performance for the Orioles in the first half has become commonplace. They managed double-digit hits, played from ahead and received a two-inning pick-me-up from Benitez when Jesse Orosco failed to retire any of three hitters in a two-run eighth.

"Every guy who steps to the plate isn't looking to be the guy who drives in the tying run. If they don't get the pitch to hit, they're willing to do whatever they can to get on base," Mussina said. "We're building innings, putting pressure on guys, getting deep in counts and when the hit comes around we already have a couple of guys on."

Arrojo, one of six Cuban defectors who has pitched in the major leagues, represents a Rookie of the Year candidate at 30. He is the only rookie pitcher from an expansion club to make an All-Star Game. Arrojo began the season 10-4 but has struggled since June. He entered last night with one win in his previous eight starts and had pitched fewer than four innings in two of his past three starts.

The Orioles wasted little time against Arrojo, raking him for six hits in the first two innings and three runs in the second.

Bordick didn't produce his first three-RBI game this season until Game No. 118. He waited only eight more days to duplicate the effort.

Arrojo fell into trouble quickly in the second when B. J. Surhoff and Cal Ripken led off with consecutive singles. For Ripken, the hit extended his hitting streak to eight games and left him with hits in 22 of his past 24 games and eight hits in his past three games. Ripken's three singles last night also leave him only one shy of Brooks Robinson's club record 2,848 hits.

The third baseman is enjoying his most productive streak of the season and has reached base in the past 43 games.

Greene's fielder's choice and Chris Hoiles' strikeout threatened the rally. But Bordick, who has quietly rehabilitated his offense after a difficult beginning, turned on the league's toughest pitcher against right-handers (.188) for a home run into the left-field stands.

"I think he threw me the only fastball and fortunately I started my swing soon enough and got a good part of the bat on it," he said.

Arrojo rarely throws his fastball for strikes. He buzzed Ripken with one -- "That's not a good guy to wake up," Orioles manager Ray Miller warned -- and otherwise relied on his assortment of breaking pitches thrown from various angles to keep hitters off balance.

Mussina nearly dropped the 3-1 lead during a 34-pitch sixth inning. It began with a a classic at-bat by Bobby Smith, who saw 14 pitches before earning a walk.

"Sometimes you'd rather a guy hit a solo home run than have to battle through an inning and throw 30 pitches to give up one run. Hit a solo home run and let me get out of the inning in 10 or 12 pitches," Mussina said.

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.