A's edge Mussina, O's, 2-1

Candiotti, 'pen make O's knuckle under on 4 hits for his 150th win

Belle misplay allows run

Saenz hit in 6th ends ace's win streak at 5

May 29, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- On a night when Mike Mussina pitched very well, Tom Candiotti threw very softly. Soft toss and the Oakland Athletics prevailed over the Orioles, 2-1, last night before a chilled crowd of 7,443 at spacious Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Should Mussina's quest of a 20-win season again prove quixotic come October, he will doubtless look back on last night's loss against a team he held to six hits while pitching his first complete game of the season. The loss denied Mussina (7-2) the second 8-1 start of his career as knuckleballer Candiotti (3-5) carried a perfect game for four innings and allowed four singles in 6 1/3 innings to gain his 150th victory.

The loss was Mussina's first since April 21 and ended his five-game win streak. The Orioles fell to 18-29 as punishment for too little hitting, an early lapse in the outfield and a banner defensive performance by the overachieving A's.

T. J. Mathews, Buddy Groom and closer Billy Taylor secured the final eight outs for the A's after designated hitter Olmedo Saenz broke a 1-1 game in the sixth inning with a one-out single to score Jason Giambi.

Candiotti, 10-4 in 20 previous starts against the Orioles, originally was scheduled to pitch today but flopped with Gil Heredia earlier this week.

Manager Art Howe might have considered a more dramatic move given the knuckleballer's recent form. Candiotti hadn't won in five starts since April 22. In that span he had allowed 34 hits and 47 base runners in 22 1/3 innings, a terrifying ratio that had helped launch his ERA from 4.50 to 6.90. In his most recent start, the Kansas City Royals ripped him for seven earned runs in four innings of what became a 14-3 A's loss.

Mussina had also enjoyed great success against his opponent. He entered 12-4 in 19 career starts against the A's, including an 8-1 record and 2.65 ERA at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Though he hadn't faced the A's since Aug. 13, 1997, Mussina's success remained intact. His support did not.

Mussina left the first inning down 1-0 because of Matt Stairs' two-out line drive over second base that mushroomed into an RBI double.

With Giambi at first base, Stairs lined a hit that barely slipped over Delino DeShields' glove.

As Giambi half-stepped around second base, right fielder Albert Belle took a too-shallow line to cut off the ball. When it rolled past him, Giambi was able to lumber all the way from first for the run. Belle received no error, but the play illustrated the Orioles' vulnerable outfield defense.

Candiotti's recent history suggested one defensive gaffe wouldn't dictate the game. However, Candiotti teased the Orioles with a knuckler that dove hard and often, resulting in only one outfield putout through six innings.

Candiotti has long grown used to pitching with little offensive support.

The A's had scored only four runs with him still in the game during his four losses. Last year he received only 18 runs while pitching in 16 losses. However, to say he lacked for support would be misleading as the A's defense repeatedly stopped insurrections before they started with brilliant defense.

The big-swinging Orioles did not push a ball out of the infield while going down in order the first three innings, A's rookie third baseman Eric Chavez robbed Belle of a double with a lunging stop of his hooking smash. First baseman Giambi, hardly recognized as a solid fielder, took a hit away from Brady Anderson leading off the fourth inning when he made a swipe stop of the center fielder's smash just off the first base line.

Immediately after Giambi's larceny, left fielder Ben Grieve took extra bases away from Mike Bordick with an over-the-shoulder catch. Candiotti finished the inning as he began it -- perfect.

A sharp grounder between third and shortstop enabled Belle to break the no-hit bid in the fifth. It also interrupted a 2-for-13 skid.

Belle's single might have started the inning, but Harold Baines' hustle prevented it from evaporating. Baines' grounder to second base looked like a double-play ball, but the 40-year-old coming off a leg injury managed to beat the relay. Jeff Conine flared a single into center field to advance Baines to second and Candiotti's wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position for Cal Ripken. Ripken sent a one-hopper to the mound that Candiotti gloved for the second out.

The situation then found Delino DeShields, a .229 hitter with runners in scoring position. DeShields produced another ball toward the mound, but this time Candiotti recoiled, leaving the play for shortstop Miguel Tejada. Tejada charged the ball, gloved it, but then fumbled for a grip as DeShields beat the play for an infield single, allowing Baines to score the tying run.

To the A's, each base is valuable. They entered last night hitting .203 since May 5. However, Giambi's leadoff double in the sixth served as catalyst for them reclaiming the lead when Saenz grounded a one-out single past Mussina into center field. The hit snapped Saenz's 3-for-25 funk while leaving Mussina visibly disgusted with himself.

Candiotti finally left after 6 1/3 innings when Belle singled for a second time and stole second. Mathews put down the rally by getting Conine and Ripken on consecutive fly balls to right field.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum

Time: 9:15

TV/Radio: Chs. 54, 50/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Jason Johnson (0-1, 7.50) vs. A's Gil Heredia (3-4, 5.56)

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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