Mussina's 5-2 victory returns team to .500 Home runs by Davis, Bordick, Alomar ensure triumph over Mariners

September 07, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- A season of mostly pain and frustration extended a sliver of enjoyment for Mike Mussina this week. He seized upon it and last night happily completed a week he will never forget.

Pitching for the first time since the Thursday birth of his first son, Mussina (13-8) snapped a personal two-game losing streak by beating the Seattle Mariners, 5-2, last night before a Kingdome crowd of 30,285. Everyone outside the Orioles' dugout enjoyed a masterful performance. Everyone inside it understood they were watching another powerful statement by a man used to persevering.

Prodded by home runs from Eric Davis, Mike Bordick and the slumping Roberto Alomar, the win was only the Orioles' second in 13 games and returned them to .500 (71-71) for the second time in three days.

Mussina pitched eight innings, yielding four hits, two walks and two runs while striking out 10. He brandished his best breaking pitch this season and pitched from the stretch against only four hitters through seven innings. Few, if any, players have endured what Mussina has endured this season. A ruptured wart put him on the disabled list in April and Cleveland Indians catcher Sandy Alomar's line drive crushed against his forehead May 14. The two absences cost Mussina his shot at a first-ever 20-win season but were minor inconveniences compared with the concern Mussina has carried all season for his wife and their unborn child.

"It takes a strong person to go out there and face what he's had to face this year," catcher Chris Hoiles said. "He's just a true professional. To be able to overcome that -- and all in one year -- is pretty remarkable. Not everybody could do it."

Mussina said: "When you get these obstacles put in front of you they can make you a better person. To get something on your pitching hand that could have been anywhere, to get hit in the head with a line drive that could've ended my career or worse, and that's just the first half of the season. I'd say I'm pretty lucky."

Since May, Mussina frequently shuttled home between starts to be with his wife, Jana, as she endured a difficult pregnancy.

The couple had received assurances but no guarantees from Jana's doctors. It wasn't until last Thursday at 10: 42 p.m. that the Mussinas received the best possible news when their son, Brycen Cole, was born healthy at 9 pounds, 4 ounces.

"It's probably been the toughest year of his career," manager Ray Miller said, "but he's such a mentally tough kid he's been able to come back and pitch well. His wife and him have been battling through this until the last couple days."

Mussina remained in Williamsport, Pa., with his family until Saturday. He rejoined the club during their afternoon loss, throwing briefly on the side.

"Obviously for one day I didn't worry about baseball," he said. "You only worry about one thing and that was whether everyone was going to be OK. I'm really glad that it did."

Despite a modified routine since his previous start, Mussina seemed to make an extra day of rest work for him. The win lifted his career record to 10-1 in 13 career regular-season starts against the Mariners. His only glaring mistake came against first baseman Raul Ibanez leading off the third inning. A left-handed rookie who batted .216 at Triple-A Tacoma before his Aug. 7 promotion, Ibanez yanked a fastball into the right-center field bleachers for the Mariners' first hit. Edgar Martinez's fourth-inning double that eluded a diving Danny Clyburn was the only other hit allowed by Mussina through seven innings.

Fighting his most severe slump of the season, Alomar finalized the win in the eighth inning with an extended at-bat capped by tTC his first home run since Aug. 9 -- a span of 114 at-bats. The blast off Jeff Fassero interrupted a 4-for-44 skid that had dropped his average to .286.

Once again the Orioles contained Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez and center fielder Ken Griffey, who were held hitless through eight innings and dropped to 4-for-25 for the series. Arthur Rhodes, not Armando Benitez, pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save.

Mussina promised he would wait until this morning for his newest hobby. "It's actually fun to call home and be able to hear him cry in the background. I'm excited by it. We've been through a lot in the last three-quarters of a year. I guess all new dads experience that," he said.

Pub Date: 9/07/98

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Kingdome, Seattle

Time: 9: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

OC Starters: Doug Drabek (6-10, 7.05) vs. Jamie Moyer (12-8, 3.64)

Pub Date: 9/07/98

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