O's shoot blanks again for Mussina

Marlins barely nick hard-luck ace, roll, 7-0

July 19, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

At some point, Mike Mussina's luck has to change. He must hope it doesn't go from bad to worse.

Mussina found another low point to his season last night, allowing runs in just one inning but getting none for himself. Offering no support, the Orioles were unable to complete a sweep of the Florida Marlins, who erupted after Mussina departed in a 7-0 victory before 38,828 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles fell to 40-52 and are 2-4 since the All-Star break. The Marlins (47-46) ended a three-game skid behind left-hander Jesus Sanchez, who threw his first major-league complete game and shutout and won for only the second time in 12 starts.

The game featured a different outfield alignment for the Orioles, with Brady Anderson starting in right field for the first time since Aug. 5, 1994, and the first time ever at Camden Yards. Rookie Luis Matos patrolled center field.

Mussina (6-9) continues to grasp air when reaching for .500. He's lost two straight decisions after winning five of six. As usual, he pitched well enough to win last night. As usual, it didn't matter.

The Marlins scored three times in the second inning, slapping the ball on the ground, to the opposite field, anywhere an Oriole couldn't reach it. With Mussina pitching, when runs on his side become scarce, a 3-0 deficit already looked insurmountable.

He departed after seven innings and only 83 pitches, with that same deficit intact. He allowed two hits after the second inning, walking one and striking out two. Six of the eight hits he surrendered were on the ground.

Manager Mike Hargrove said Mussina indicated he was tired after the seventh, forcing him to go to the bullpen. Darren Holmes, appearing for the first time since July 8 in Philadelphia, served up two-run homers to Preston Wilson and Kevin Millar in the eighth before recording an out, sending fans streaming for the exits and eliminating any thoughts of a comeback. He's allowed runs in four of his five outings since joining the club on June 29 and has a 25.08 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.

Mussina, who had thrown at least 120 pitches in five of his previous six starts, shied away from his fastball most of the night, but his velocity was good. "He came off the field and said he just didn't have anything left, and that's the reason we took him out," Hargrove said.

"Given the conditions tonight, as hot and humid as it was, I wasn't totally surprised. He still looked like he had good stuff. A tired Moose can still do a pretty good job. But a tired pitcher on the mound, you're asking for trouble. Moose was honest with us. He said he didn't have anything left."

Mussina ate his post-game meal and left reporters hovering around his locker. "Why do you want to talk to me?" he asked. "I'm not the story. We got shut out. He's the story," he said, pointing toward the Marlins' clubhouse.

The Orioles have scored two runs or fewer seven times when Mussina starts. They're averaging 3.2 runs in his 21 starts, 5.6 in the other games. He's receiving the second-lowest run support in the American League, but has the sixth-lowest ERA at 3.82.

Quiet most of the night, the Orioles put a runner on third with one out in the sixth and seventh innings without getting a clutch hit. They couldn't even get a fly ball, or a grounder to the right side. Anything to assist Mussina, who paid dearly for one troublesome inning.

Derrek Lee opened the second with a double into right-center field. Anderson cut across before breaking back on the ball, which landed on the warning track before Matos could get to it. Millar's double to left brought home Lee.

With one out, Alex Gonzalez poked a run-scoring single into right, moved up on another well-placed single to right by Mike Redmond and scored when Luis Castillo sent a one-hopper over third baseman Jeff Conine's head. Castillo entered the game batting .369, but the RBI was only his sixth this year.

Mussina walked to the dugout with his head down after getting the last two outs. There were no outward signs of frustration, though he was entitled to a few. He hit his spots, made good pitches. On other nights, the damage would have been minimal.

"He had given up three runs, had runners on first and third with two outs and had only thrown 10 pitches," Hargrove said. "He was throwing strikes. The only ball that was hit hard that inning was Lee's double. But those are the breaks."

The Orioles hadn't gotten much of a look at Sanchez, who scattered eight hits and didn't walk a batter. Mark Lewis, who started at second base, was 2-for-6. Catcher Charles Johnson was 0-for-2. That was it.

Sanchez had been winless since May 10, going 0-6 with four no-decisions, before defeating Tampa Bay in his last start. He lasted only five innings, giving up four earned runs but receiving lots of support in a 10-9 victory.

The Orioles scuffled against him all night. B. J. Surhoff singled with two outs in the second. Anderson singled with two outs in the third. Albert Belle singled with one out in the fourth but was wiped out on a double play.

This was the pitcher the New York Mets had seen on July 3, when Sanchez shut them out over eight innings with no decision.

The Orioles didn't put a runner in scoring position until the sixth, when Matos led off with a double inside the right-field line. Anderson bounced to second, with Matos taking third.

Given two cracks to end the shutout, the Orioles squandered the opportunity. Mike Bordick, second on the team with 57 RBIs, struck out for the second time. Will Clark, who was batting .350 with four homers in his last 17 games, flied to deep center on a 3-1 pitch.

In the seventh, Belle led off with a double off the scoreboard and took third on Conine's fly ball to the fence in right. Surhoff popped to short, and Johnson struck out.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Pete Schourek (2-8, 4.70) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (5-5, 5.10)

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