In a jam, Mussina turns off NL power

He fans Sosa, McGwire to end fifth-inning threat

July 14, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- Six years ago, he never made it out of the bullpen in his home ballpark. Two years ago, he barely made it out of bed.

Last night, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina got to fully enjoy his fifth All-Star appearance, and he didn't have to follow perhaps the toughest act in baseball. All he had to do was confront Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire with two runners in scoring position.

Piece of cake.

Replacing New York's David Cone rather than starter Pedro Martinez, who had struck out five of the six batters he faced, Mussina turned in a scoreless fifth inning in the American League's 4-1 victory over the National League before 34,187 at Fenway Park.

Mussina was among four Orioles who made the trip to Fenway Park, along with starting third baseman Cal Ripken and reserves B. J. Surhoff and Harold Baines. Ripken and Baines each singled, with Ripken also being hit by a pitch, scoring a run and driving in another.

Mussina has totaled three innings in All-Star competition. The next run he gives up will be his first.

He never had the chance in 1993, when then-Toronto manager Cito Gaston held him out of the game and drew the wrath of the Camden Yards crowd. A virus was to blame in 1997, with Mussina so ill he barely could speak while sitting in the AL's clubhouse in Cleveland.

He fell into a sickening predicament last night by issuing a leadoff walk to Jay Bell and allowing a one-out double by Luis Gonzalez. Up stepped Sosa, who leads the majors with 32 homers. Down went Sosa, who froze on a two-strike fastball on the outside corner.

Three pitches later, McGwire became Mussina's second strikeout victim, and the third for the right-hander in All-Star competition. A 4-1 lead, which looked ready to be punched full of holes, held firm.

"All I was thinking about was being the guy who was going to give up the lead," Mussina said. "In a situation like this, you come out of the bullpen and hope to have a smooth inning and be able to throw strikes. Except for fastballs, I couldn't throw strikes. I tried to locate and get something on the ball, and fortunately they swung through them.

"You've got to remember this is kind of a fun game, but facing those guys back-to-back, there aren't too many lineups where you get that kind of power, that kind of situation, and get through it without anybody scoring. I was just really lucky. I threw some good fastballs away and they didn't get them.

"I got myself in trouble and I had to find a way to get out of it. I don't think I could have planned it that way."

Playing in his 17th consecutive All-Star Game, Ripken gave the AL a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a run-scoring single off former teammate Curt Schilling. Ripken drove a fastball into right field, allowing Cleveland's Manny Ramirez to come home and giving him seven RBIs in the midsummer classic. Two of them came last year at Coors Field in Denver.

Ripken batted again in the fourth with Jim Thome at first and none out. Standing in against St. Louis right-hander Kent Bottenfield, Ripken fouled off a series of two-strike pitches before being hit on the right forearm. Grimacing, he hopped in the air and spun in a circle before trotting to first, never rubbing the arm.

He didn't have time for the pain. Ripken hustled to third on a single to right by former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro and scored on an error by third baseman Matt Williams. Ripken stayed in the dugout, with Toronto's Tony Fernandez replacing him in the fifth.

"Each and every one of these games is special and unique," Ripken said while his son, Ryan, sat on his lap. "Coming to Boston with its great history and stadium, it was a special feeling just being out there. And you put the great players from the National League against the great players from the American League, and you have a game in this environment, it doesn't get much better than that."

Surhoff, appearing in his first All-Star Game, replaced Kenny Lofton in left field in the fourth inning as AL manager Joe Torre began dipping into his bench. Lofton moved to center, replacing Ken Griffey, and Shawn Green took over in right for Ramirez.

Surhoff wasted no time when given the chance to hit against Houston's Jose Lima leading off the fifth. He chased the first pitch and grounded to first. Surhoff went after the second pitch from Houston's Mike Hampton in the seventh inning and again grounded out.

Baines, pinch-hitting for Palmeiro in the sixth, fell behind 0-2 before roping a single to center against Atlanta's Kevin Millwood, his third hit in eight All-Star at-bats. He was forced at second on a grounder by Brad Ausmus.

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