- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

BALTIMORE If these are the final days of Mike Mussina as a Baltimore Oriole, they are not pretty ones. He was rocked for six runs, five of them earned, in the first two innings of a 7-3 loss to the White Sox last night at Camden Yards.
In Mussina's previous start Friday, he allowed seven runs on 11 hits in a 7-6 loss to Kansas City. The five-time All-Star right-hander also allowed seven runs on nine hits in a 7-4 loss Aug. 6 to Tampa Bay.
Mussina appeared to have recovered from last night's rocky start when he held Chicago scoreless in the third and fourth innings. However, he left after the fourth inning although he had thrown just just 65 pitches.
Manager Mike Hargrove said his ace was sick with congestion and flu-like symptoms before he took the mound.
"His velocity was down and he was struggling out there," said Hargrove, who also said the team had no one else available to start in Mussina's place. "He was weak. He showed a lot of heart out there."
Mussina left the clubhouse before the game ended.
The loss left the Orioles (52-67) tied with their season low for mediocrity, 15 games below .500. More surprising is the decline by Mussina (7-13), who began the season with the highest winning percentage in baseball history among right-handers with 200 or more decisions (.673) for the Orioles since 1991. He even went 31-17 during the team's losing seasons of 1998 and 1999.
But he is losing big now, giving up 19 runs over his last 17 innings. Oddly, Mussina, 31, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, turned in his best performance of the year Aug. 1, a one-hit, 10-0 shutout of Minnesota.
Just like Monday night, the White Sox started off quickly with two runs in the top of the first on a double by Herbert Perry. Unlike Monday night, though, Baltimore didn't answer back in the bottom of the first, though the Orioles had a chance to.
After Jerry Hairston lined out to short to lead off, Melvin Mora singled to right and Delino DeShields singled to left. But cleanup hitter Albert Belle, leading the club with 92 RBI, grounded softly into a double play. The crowd of 39,079 booed Belle as he stood on the field after the play, waiting for his cap and glove to be brought to him.
Belle also was booed when a ball hit by Paul Konerko in the top of the eighth bounced off the scoreboard and then over the right fielder's head, allowing Magglio Ordonez to score Chicago's seventh. Belle was 0-for-4 for the night.
Mussina's problems went from bad in the first inning to worse in the top of the second. Chris Singleton reached first on a throwing error by Mora that pulled first baseman Chris Richard off the bag, though Hargrove came out and argued the call. Mussina struck out Charles Johnson, but Durham and Jose Valentin hit back-to-back singles, with Singleton scoring on Valentin's hit.
That brought up slugger Frank Thomas, a nightmare for Mussina over his career. The "Big Hurt" came in batting .400 lifetime against Mussina, with seven home runs and 14 RBI. This time Thomas blasted a 1-2 pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run, 415-foot homer, his 37th of the season. It also gave Thomas eight RBI against the Orioles in his last seven at-bats, and the White Sox led 6-0.
Baltimore came back to score two in the bottom of the third off White Sox starter Jim Parque. Luis Matos led off with a single to left. After Hairston flied to center, Mora, batting .408 since joining the Orioles on July 29, slammed a triple to center, scoring Matos. Mora came home on a balk call by home plate umpire Randy Marsh.

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