In matchup of aces, O's decked, 6-3

Braves' Maddux out-duels Mussina in second-half opener

Bonilla gets go-ahead single

Ninth inning chaotic as Mussina falls to 6-8

July 14, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Except for the predictable Rocker madness, the vision of Albert Belle hitting perfectly behind a double steal and the National League chaos imported by the Atlanta Braves, the Orioles' second half began the same way as its first: a three-run loss at Camden Yards behind Mike Mussina.

A game that swayed for six innings fell atop the Orioles late when Braves left fielder Bobby Bonilla singled for a seventh-inning lead and Mussina suffered a messy two-run ninth to lose, 6-3, in front of 47,284.

A victory would have evened the record of Mussina (6-8) for the first time this season and tied him for third on the Orioles' all-time win list with Mike Cuellar. Instead, the Orioles' ace only received a complete game and his second loss since May 20.

The Braves ratcheted the degree of difficulty with starting pitcher Greg Maddux. Even at less than his best, Maddux contained the Orioles long enough for a three-man relief job to finish, with familiar face Scott Kamieniecki gaining his first save since July 4, 1999.

"It was two very well-pitched games through eight innings," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "I thought Greg threw the ball very well. He hit his spots, changed speeds and kept under control all the time. He was very good. I thought Mussina was just as good. It just didn't work out right."

An ugly two-run ninth inning that included a hit batter, two stolen bases and Mussina's second error since 1995 left the Orioles' ace scarred with six earned runs.

"It seemed like I threw the ball a lot better than it looks," said Mussina, sounding a little bewildered.

Mussina entered the game with the second-worst run support among American League starting pitchers (3.61 runs per nine innings) and it didn't improve. However, Mussina realized the three runs against Maddux represented an opportunity lost.

"I'm asked to go out there and do an important job. Sometimes you're put in tough situations. This year most of them have been mentally challenging," Mussina said. "We got three runs tonight off Maddux. That's more than I've had the last two weeks. And I couldn't do anything with it."

For only the second time in his past 11 starts, Mussina allowed more than two earned runs. Dominant without base runners, he struggled from the stretch.

The Braves placed only two leadoff hitters. Each scored. Mussina held them to 2-for-21 hitting with bases empty but was bruised for 4-for-11, two walks and his own error with runners on base.

"The way the game went, every time they got on base they took advantage of it and scored a run," Mussina said.

"I thought he was pitching real well," Maddux said of Mussina, who was charged with six earned runs. "We didn't do anything off him for the first time through the lineup. When you get three runs like we did off him, you have to feel fortunate. I thought he pitched great. I think both teams kind of fought for every run they got."

Designated hitter Harold Baines provided Mussina a 1-0 lead by doubling over center fielder Andruw Jones in the second inning. The Braves snatched it away with a three-run fourth inning, only the second such rally allowed by Mussina in his past 91 innings.

The Braves came after Mussina in the fourth inning. Andruw Jones ruined Mussina's 10-batter run of perfection by lining a double to left field and Chipper Jones walked to bring up Milford Mill alumnus Brian Jordan. In his first at-bat ever at Camden Yards, Jordan's inside-out swing smacked a double off the top of the right-field scorex board, scoring Andruw Jones as Belle scrambled for a ricochet that bounced past him. Mussina couldn't stem the inning. Andres Galarraga topped a grounder to third base, giving Jeff Conine no play except to first base as a secx ond run scored.

The Braves completed their rally when designated hitter Wally Joyner looped an RBI single over shortstop.

A bit of daring allowed the Orioles to tie the game in the fourth. After Brady Anderson's leadoff single and Delino DeShields' one-out walk, Belle came to the plate in a 7-for-41 funk and quickly fell behind, 0-2. Hargrove gambled by starting both runners and Belle made the move work when he lined a single through the vacated hole at second base to score Anderson and bump DeShields to third. B.J. Surhoff tied the game on a roller too slow for the Braves' middle infield to turn into a double play.

Bonilla tormented his former team with a one-out single to score Galarraga in the seventh. Down 4-3, the Orioles never pushed another runner into scoring position.

"They're two great pitchers," said Bonilla. "Moose is a tremendous pitcher and he's facing maybe the greatest pitcher the game's ever seen. I went up there aggressive against Moose and I was able to finally make contact, and it paid off for us."

Maddux (11-3) had been scratched from a Sunday start against the Boston Red Sox and missed an All-Star Game appearance because of a bruise suffered to his right shoulder during batting practice Saturday.

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