- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

BALTIMORE It was the kind of night that reminds everyone that Mike Mussina is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The Baltimore Orioles' right-hander carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning Tuesday night on his way to a one-hit shutout the only one-hitter in the major leagues this season. In the process, Mussina tied his own single-game club record with 15 strikeouts.

"I had pretty good stuff with everything I had," said Mussina, who allowed only three balls out of the infield. "You get nights like that once in an entire season maybe… . I had everything going."

Only about 5,000 fans remained at Camden Yards when Mussina finished his gem by striking out David Ortiz a third time at 12:26 a.m. yesterday. They were on their feet chanting "Moose" in appreciation for the masterful outing. But the Orioles' faithful were sending another message to team owner Peter Angelos and Mussina besides celebrating his dominating performance.

The crowd took the opportunity to urge the star pitcher to stay in town. The 31-year-old will become a free agent after this season and could leave for greener pastures and a pennant contender.

Was it one of Mussina's last great performances in an Orioles uniform? The ace has been openly critical of the club's recent trading frenzy that has dumped salaries of established veterans for unknown prospects. The 10-year veteran, who has spent his entire career with the Orioles, has stated he doesn't care to be part of a long-term rebuilding process.

"I hated to see those guys go," said Mussina, who believes he may have also been dealt were it not for the no-trade clause in his contract. "I played here a long time, and to see those guys go was tougher to take than most of the guys that aren't around here any more. I wish those guys all the success in the world. I would love to see one or two of those guys back here while I'm still here if I'm still here."

Mussina is having another standout season despite a deceptive 7-10 record. The five-time All-Star has a 3.65 ERA and is second in the American League, behind only Pedro Martinez (1.38 ERA going into last night's game). Mussina leads the league in innings pitched with 167 2/3, and his 142 strikeouts trail only Martinez. He has five complete games; only Toronto's David Wells has more with six.

The only number that is down is wins, and that's because he had the lowest run support in the league before Tuesday's game. He was receiving a paltry 3.29 runs a game.

His impressive accomplishments, including being the Cy Young runner-up last season with 18 wins and a 3.50 ERA, have him seeking a new contract in line with the sport's top pitchers. The Stanford graduate, with a degree in economics, is reportedly asking for $84 million over six years. Baltimore is believed to have offered $60 million for a like term.

And talks have apparently stagnated as Mussina seems content on testing the open market before making a final decision. The Orioles have done little to persuade him otherwise.

"I never said I don't want to come back," said Mussina, who is from Montoursville, Pa. "Everybody wants to write a big story that Moose is out. Moose isn't out yet. There is a long time to go. I am looking forward to wearing the same number and dressing in the same locker and all those things for the rest of my career, if at all possible. We're working on it. Hopefully, it will come about."

The Orioles had numerous opportunities to lock up Mussina on a long-term deal the past several years, but will now have to shell out a premium to match offers from the open markets.

And efforts like Tuesday's against Minnesota will only raise his value.

The performance set a regular-season strikeout record for the Orioles and matched the club's all-time strikeout mark, which Mussina set in a playoff game against Cleveland in 1997.

"What do you look for?" said Baltimore's new catcher Brook Fordyce, who caught Mussina for the first time. "He's got the outside corner. He's got the changeup on the outside corner. He's got a curveball for a strike. Then, he's got a curveball that's in the zone and goes right in the dirt. I mean if you are a hitter, you just hopefully hang on, tip your hat and hopefully he doesn't have it the next time. But he had every pitch."

It wasn't until Ron Coomer's soft-line drive single to the opposite field with two outs in the seventh that Mussina proved to be mortal. The pitcher said it was like he could walk up to the plate and place the pitches exactly where he wanted.

"It's just one of those nights that you are never going to explain it," said Mussina, who worked on three days rest. "Just everything went your way, and tonight everything went my way."

But will it be one of the final treats he gives Orioles' fans before moving on for top dollar with a contending team in the offseason?

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