Mussina drought ends, 5-1

Ace holds Mariners for 7 to cap sweep, get 1st win in month

Timlin has 1-2-3 ninth

Surhoffs 2nd hit aids Os 3-run 7th

May 26, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

As he watched silently from the mound, the bench and the tunnel leading to the Orioles clubhouse, Mike Mussina saw vision after nightmarish vision pass before him last night. From absurd fielding, untimely hitting and improper base running to a ghastly reminder of what happened to him on the same mound two years before, Mussina saw all.

But in what might be a turning point to a maddening season, Mussina's seven solid innings and his offenses seventh-inning revival were enough to give the Orioles a 5-1 win over the Seattle Mariners before 34,764 at Camden Yards. The Orioles have now won five of their last 20.

" We've won three out of three now. Were going to have to start a new count," quipped manager Mike Hargrove.

The win was Mussina's second in 11 starts and first since an April 29 138-pitch complete game against the Texas Rangers and completed the Orioles three- game sweep of the Mariners. The Orioles held the Mariners to six runs, knocking them out of first place, during a series in which the Orioles doubled their win total for the month. Mussina (2-6) won because he allowed five hits, no home runs and two walks while striking out a season-high nine.

He escaped after seven innings following a three-run breakout in the bottom of the inning in which B. J. Surhoff capped his first two-hit game since May 7 and pinch hitter Jeff Conine drilled a pinch two-run double to turn a nervous game into one that ended with Mike Timlin pitching a perfect ninth inning without the tying run even getting on-deck, thanks to Buddy Groom putting out a bases-loaded fire in the eighth.

"I've found Moose to be very tough mentally, but I think there was a great deal of frustration building in him. There was in me, so I assume there was in him also, " said Hargrove. "I think it's nice for him to get the win the way he got it. It's nice that he got to 2-6 and in his next start could be 3-6. This season is not a waste for him, whatsoever."

While Mussina waited for the offense, nothing was more troubling than Harold Baines' fourth- inning broken bat that raked the right side of Abbotts' face. On May 14, 1998, Cleveland Indians catcher Sandy Alomar's line drive caught Mussina just above his right eye, resulting in dozens of stitches, a broken nose and a month on the disabled list. Abbott writhed on the mound for several minutes before being wheeled off the field.

The right side of his face badly swollen, Abbott returned from the University of Maryland Medical Center to discuss his ordeal.

"I never saw it. I was just going to field the ball like a routine comebacker. All of a sudden I was on the ground. I never saw it. I was laying still, hoping nothing else would happen. As bad as I look right now, it could have been a lot worse," Abbott said.

"You don't like to see that happen," said Hargrove, who witnessed Mussina's beaning from the visitors dugout. "It was fortunate the sharp end of the bat didn't hit him, cut him or get in his eye. That's what I was concerned about when I saw him rolling around on the mound."

Mussina suffered nothing worse than five hits, a couple misplays and seven innings of suspense before the game broke open but chose not to speak about his start for a second consecutive game. He notified a public relations employee following the game and remained out of the clubhouse for 45 minutes. Mussina at least temporarily becomes the third Orioles player to enforce a local media blackout, joining Albert Belle and Delino DeShields.

Mussina has let it be known that he is trying to wipe away all distractions while attempting to right a 1-6 start. He has consistently maintained, however, that ongoing negotiations with the club regarding a possible contract extension do not represent a distraction.

DeShields gave the Orioles 1-0 and 2-1 leads on ground balls that drove in runners from third base. Surhoff accounted for a two-run cushion with arguably his most important hit in weeks. Fighting a 14-for-100 funk before last night, Surhoff remaining at No. 3 in the batting order is a statement of faith. Hitting coach Terry Crowley and Hargrove agree that the left fielder has shown signs of escaping a slide that had dropped his average from .360 to .231. Surhoff justified their patience with a first-inning flare and a seventh-inning line drive to give Mussina his first two-run lead since May 4.

"I do have confidence in him. I really do," said Hargrove. "I also know that at some point in time I'm going to have to give B. J. a break and let him rest, just mentally."

Able to quantify his lacking offensive support 3.07 runs per nine innings, third-worst in the American League Mussina was then reminded of the less tangible element of defense.

Alex Rodriguez led off the third inning with a single into the right- center-field gap. Belle ranged for the ball but allowed it to roll beneath his backhand for what was scored a single and an error.

The additional base became huge when John Olerud slammed a one-hop grounder that literally picked DeShields off the ground. But with Rodriguez getting a bit of a late start from second base instead of first, DeShields tried to cut him down at third. His threw was high and Rodriguez slid in safely as Olerud reached.

Designated hitter Edgar Martinez followed with a sacrifice fly to score an unearned run and tie the game. It would be the last runner the Mariners would push to third base against Mussina.

While only one of their first eight hits led to a run, the Orioles took a 2-1 lead by parlaying another walk to Mike Bordick into a fifth-inning run. This time Brady Anderson singled him to third and DeShields scored him with a slow grounder to second.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Athletics' Mark Mulder (2-1, 3.83) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (1-1, 8.31)

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