- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000


BALTIMORE Once again starter Mike Mussina failed to earn a win yesterday, but this time some unlikely sources kept the Baltimore Orioles from squandering another impressive effort.

Will Clark's fifth home run of the year broke an eighth-inning tie and Baltimore's beleaguered bullpen held off the Toronto Blue Jays as the Orioles stole a 3-2 victory before 41,267 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (35-44) took their third straight win and fifth in six games to improve their home record to 23-12, the second-best mark in the American League. The Blue Jays fell to 44-38 and are just one game ahead of the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

The Orioles will put their Camden Yards mojo to the test this afternoon when they send winless Jason Johnson to the mound against Blue Jays ace David Wells and his 13-2 record.

The Orioles managed to preserve a strong outing by Mussina, who gave up one earned run in seven innings to drop his ERA to 3.84. For Mussina, the lack of run support is nothing new. This was the 10th time in 18 starts the Orioles have managed three runs or less for him.

While his record remains 5-7, the Orioles are 4-2 in games in which he has gotten a no-decision.

"Mike Mussina kept us in the game," Clark said.

Early in his career, Clark put up impressive power numbers, averaging 27 homers in his first five seasons. And he played half of his games in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, where homers were hard to come by.

But after hitting just one home run in the first 2 1/2 months of this season, Clark found himself defending his lack of power, which seemed all the more glaring in this era of high-scoring games.

Clark hit his second of the season 12 days ago in Oakland and, much to the Blue Jays' chagrin, celebrated the Orioles' return home from a 10-game road trip by going deep in the first three games of this homestand.

Yesterday's blast came with two outs in the eighth off reliever Paul Quantrill, who hung a sinker Clark knew was coming.

"Paul Quantrill's got a very good sinker, and he relies on it quite a bit," Clark said. "I was actually looking for it, and he just happened to get it out and over the plate. I got a pretty good piece of that one."

Clark linked his recent power surge to working with hitting coach Terry Crowley.

"Some of the adjustments he has asked me to make up at the plate have paid off quite a bit, so I have to give him a lot of credit," Clark said.

Relievers Buddy Groom and Mike Trombley set the stage for the win in the bottom of the eighth, a somewhat novel feat for a unit that entered the game with a 6.10 ERA, 15 losses and 19 blown saves.

Demoted closer Mike Timlin came on to the start the eighth and promptly gave up consecutive singles to put the go-ahead run in scoring position and bring a chorus of boos. Enter the left-handed Groom, who got Carlos Delgado to ground out and Brad Fullmer to pop to short before giving way to the right-handed Trombley, who closed the inning by striking out Tony Batista with a nasty breaking pitch that caught the inside of the plate.

"It was big," Groom said. "When we come in with guys on base, we want to not just pick ourselves up but pick up the guy that's in that situation. It not only picks him up, but picks the team up."

Alan Mills worked the ninth to earn the save but not without a huge assist from catcher Greg Myers. Mills walked Marty Cordova with one out. Cordova tried to steal second and was nailed by a perfect throw from Myers.

"It was right on the bag," Mills said. "It was a huge play."

Especially after Chris Woodward followed with a long single that just missed clearing the left-field fence. He was stranded when Shannon Stewart struck out to end the game.

Early in the game, it appeared another strong effort by Mussina would be wasted, not by lack of scoring but by sloppy defense. A first-inning error by Delino DeShields allowed Greg Grebeck to reach, and Raul Mondesi followed with a home run to put the Blue Jays up 2-0.

Mussina allowed only four hits and one walk the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the Orioles clawed back against starter Kelvim Escobar with RBI from Brady Anderson in the third and B.J. Surhoff in the fifth to tie the game.

Anderson drove in Jeff Conine, while Surhoff scored Albert Belle, both of whom had doubled.

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