Mussina strikes down Phils, 8-4

Orioles ace whiffs 12

Clark, Hairston homer

July 11, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- For once it was a beautiful night in Ray Miller's neighborhood, even if the setting was inside humid, smelly Veterans Stadium.

When Miller pencils in Mike Mussina as his starting pitcher, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Timlin providing him two innings of perfect relief and Will Clark backing up his insistence for playing time with an angry bat, the self-destructive Philadelphia Phillies have little chance. At least that's how it looked during the Orioles' 8-4 win before 32,300.

Mussina (11-4) completed a satisfying first half by winning his first professional start in his native state. Clark returned to first base and supplied his seventh home run, three runs and two important defensive plays in the fifth inning.

"It was a good day. We won a game, which hadn't happened for a few days," Mussina said.

If only 85 games had not come before, one might believe all was right with the Orioles. They won for the second time in 14 games on artificial turf and snapped a four-game losing streak. The win was the Orioles' third in 17 games and featured Rhodes and Timlin working effectively in their original roles.

Miller, oft-scrutinized during the Orioles' tangled 35-51 start for tactics that haven't worked, pushed appropriate buttons. He later explained that a seamless bullpen performance, a pinch-hit RBI and seven solid innings by Mussina, who struck out 12, have a way of making a manager smarter.

For at least one night, weirdness afflicted an opponent. Brady Anderson stole a base by removing a fielder's glove with his foot. Clark was picked off in the fourth inning when the Phillies dugout stole a sign and pitched out. But Clark retreated safely when first baseman Rico Brogna whiffed on a throw in the rundown.

The Orioles doubled on bloops to center field and scored two more unearned runs in the ninth after right fielder Bobby Abreu dropped a fly ball. The Orioles not only played error-free, they were twice saved by Clark's defense during a nervous four-run fifth inning that included a three-run homer by Rob Ducey.

"The weird stuff happened to them," Mussina said.

Clark started for the first time since experiencing swelling in his left knee last weekend and lifted the offense along with Jerry Hairston's three-run homer in a four-run Orioles' fifth.

When Miller replaced Clark with a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, Jeff Conine made it work with a two-out RBI single that was followed by Cal Ripken's RBI double.

Mussina received his fourth win in his last five decisions as a going-away gift to the All-Star Game.

He was overpowering for six of his seven innings and used a 6-0 lead to survive a fifth-inning scare. His two previous starts were marked by diminished velocity and seven strikeouts in 11 2/3 combined innings. Mussina rediscovered his powerball last night. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, at one point ending a run of five straight strikeouts by getting Scott Rolen, Brogna and Mike Lieberthal.

Through four innings Mussina had nine strikeouts, only one shy of his previous season high.

Mussina's heady week consisted of an abbreviated but grueling win over the New York Yankees last Monday, followed by his selection to a fifth All-Star Game. Mussina remains the game's most accomplished pitcher never to win 20 games, having won 19 twice, but has rarely if ever enjoyed the kind of consistency of this season. Three of his starts and two of his losses have resulted in 2-1 outcomes.

Reflecting on a first half that gave him 11 wins but teased with a possible 14, Mussina sounded satisfied. "I gave our guys a chance for the majority of the times I'm out there," he said. "To win 11 games in the first half is pretty good. I'll take that."

Wonderfully adept at avoiding breakout innings, Mussina couldn't control the bottom of the Phillies lineup as a 6-0 game gained suspense in the fifth inning.

After Marlon Anderson's bunt single, Mussina walked Alex Arias and Phillies manager Terry Francona replied by lifting All-Star starter Paul Byrd (11-5) for pinch hitter Domingo Cedeno. Cedeno's single scored Anderson. One batter later, Ducey came to the plate.

One of only four Phillies to have previously faced Mussina, Ducey entered the game in a 2-for-24 funk. His home run brought Miller out of the dugout and started the bullpen.

The Phillies' four-run outburst might have been worse if not for Clark 's glove. He saved Ripken an error by picking his short-hopped throw for the first out.

With two outs and Rolen at second following a double, Clark fielded Brogna's cued roller and flipped a stiff backhand to Mussina covering for the third out.

Clark's left knee and Anderson's hamstring problems made an appearance on artificial turf especially a risk.

"The medical people talked to me; I hadn't talked to Will. But Will came in and said, `I feel all right. I feel good. I hit last night. I want to help us.' That was nice. He had a big day for us," Miller said.

Clark's frustration over not facing a pair of right-handers the last several days caused him to seek another audience with the manager, who relented when Clark's request sounded more like a demand.

"I gave Ray the green light for three days," Clark said. "He was being very careful, shall we say."

Clark justified Miller's faith in the second inning with an opposite-field homer.

The Orioles added another run in the fourth inning when Mussina furthered his reputation as a hitter with a one-out single that scored Clark. In the fifth, Hairston completed a four-run rally with a two-out, three-run homer.

As a result, Miller was left to field questions about how to find a roster spot for the organizational prize. Even on the stinky side of Philadelphia, Miller had discovered a nicer place to sit.

Orioles today

Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Time: 1: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Erickson (3-8, 6.34) vs. Phillies' Chad Ogea (4-8, 5.29)

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