- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

ORIOLES 2, ROYALS 1

BALTIMORE More often than not this season, Baltimore Orioles ace Mike Mussina has been a mediocre pitcher. But last night Mussina was good enough early to pitch the Orioles to a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals before 33,365 at Camden Yards.

Ryan Kohlmeier helped out the Orioles' longtime ace by collecting his fifth save in as many opportunities as Baltimore's new closer. Kohlmeier retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning.

Mussina won for just the second time in eight starts after beginning the season with the best percentage in history (136-66 .673) among right-handers with 200 or more decisions.

Coming off one of his shakiest efforts of the season against the Chicago White Sox, Mussina allowed one unearned run and six hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking one.

Mussina might have returned for the eighth inning had it not been for an ugly callous that developed on his right thumb.

"But I was just concerned with coming out and having a quality outing," he said. "I think I did pretty well tonight. There were some times when I was a little ragged out there. But overall I liked the way I pitched and the way the team played."

When Mussina left the game, the Orioles were holding on to a 2-1 lead. Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove almost assuredly would have sent Mussina out for at least another inning if Mussina had not told him about his injury.

"It just gets worse as the game goes on," Hargrove said. "In a one-run ballgame, you don't want to have a guy go out there and leave a pitch hanging as the result of a callous. So I'm glad he said something about it. Ninety percent of Mike Mussina is a lot better than 100 percent of most pitchers."

When the season is over, Mussina will be a free agent looking to cash in on a major contract, but he has done little to drive up his value this season. In his most recent outing before last night, the flu-ridden Mussina lasted a season-low four innings in a 7-3 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday.

Mussina got off to a shaky start last night, allowing three of the first four batters he faced to reach base. However, he got out of the inning by striking out Joe Randa. Beginning with Randa, Mussina retired 10 straight batters, six on strikeouts.

The Orioles took advantage of a Kansas City error in the fifth inning to go ahead 2-0. Baltimore first baseman Chris Richard opened the inning with a double to left-center off loser Brian Meadows and scored on a single by Brook Fordyce. Jermaine Dye's throw from right field soared into the dugout, allowing Fordyce to reach third. The next Baltimore batter, Luis Matos flied out to right to score Fordyce.

The Royals chipped away at the lead with the help of some sloppy play by Orioles. With two outs and none on in the sixth inning, Baltimore third baseman Jeff Conine extended the Orioles' string of games with an error when he mishandled a ball that allowed Rey Sanchez to reach first.

Kansas City's Mike Sweeney then singled Sanchez to third. Dye's drive went off Richard's outstretched glove to score Sanchez and close the Orioles' lead to 2-1.

The Orioles got into a jam with reliever Mike Trombley on the mound in the eighth inning. Nursing a one-run lead with two outs, Trombley yielded back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases. However, he escaped by retiring Mark Quinn.

After the game, the Orioles optioned third baseman Ryan Minor to AAA Rochester and recalled infielder Mike Kinkade. Kinkade, acquired by the Orioles from the New York Mets last month, was batting .346 (18-for-52) in 14 games with the Red Wings.

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