- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

BALTIMORE The good news for the Baltimore Orioles is that after struggling most of the season, yesterday Mike Mussina began to resemble the pitcher that was one of the best in baseball during the past decade. The bad news is, well, everything else.

A strong performance by Mussina wasn't enough to overcome a faltering bullpen and an anemic offense that was again baffled by Boston Red Sox pitching. The result for the Orioles was a 10-1 loss before 46,101 at Camden Yards.

And now for the carnage update:

The Orioles have lost seven straight games and 11 of their last 12. They are 5-16 after starting the season 11-5. The Red Sox, meanwhile, won their fifth straight and leapfrogged the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

It gets worse. For most of the season the Orioles' pitching bore the brunt of the criticism for the club's struggles. The staff has a league-worst 6.03 ERA.

But the Orioles hitters are equally to blame for the club being swept by the Red Sox. After scoring four runs in the first four innings Thursday, the Orioles managed just two runs in the final 32 innings of the series and none in 12 and 1/3 innings against Boston's relievers. The Orioles were outscored in this series 35-6.

"We're not pitching well … [But] I think there is blame for all of us," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, who has stayed calm and upbeat during his club's slide but has admitted to being frustrated. "Certainly we need to pitch better. In this stretch we have scored runs but we haven't always scored runs. We haven't pitched well in many cases but not all cases."

Said Orioles' shortstop Mike Bordick:

"They definitely pitched well but we deserve a lot of the blame. We could have swung the bats better, all of us. We had some opportunities and we didn't capitalize on them."

The rout overshadowed a much-improved performance by Mussina, who entered the game in the worst funk of his career, starting the season 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA. In seven innings, Mussina allowed six hits, walked three and gave up three runs, two of them on solo homers.

"I can't complain about the way I pitched," Mussina said. "I would like the result to be better but I can't complain about three runs in seven innings."

"He pitched well enough to win," Hargrove said.

The home runs surrendered by Mussina barely cleared the short fences in left and center field, respectively. Each would have been flyouts in bigger parks. But they still counted and brought the number of home runs Mussina has allowed this year to 14, the worst in the majors.

The first homer was particularly bothersome since it came from light-hitting Darren Lewis, who hadn't homered since June 16, 1999. Brian Daubach's sixth-inning shot just eluded the glove of Brady Anderson and put the Red Sox ahead 3-1.

In the fifth Mussina was victimized by casual fielding when Albert Belle misplayed a single by Donnie Sadler and allowed him to take second. The extra base proved costly when Jose Offerman followed with a single that drove in Sadler and put the Red Sox up 2-0.

With the Red Sox sending Brian Rose and his 7.40 ERA to the hill, the Orioles figured to have a good chance to break out of their offensive doldrums. Instead they kept making mistakes to prevent them from scoring.

In the fourth Harold Baines singled with two outs and Jeff Conine followed with a double. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo inexplicably waved the painfully slow 41-year-old Baines home. The result was predictable: Sadler's relay throw beat Baines by 10 feet and he was tagged out to end the inning.

In the fifth the Orioles had runners at first and second with no outs when Mark Lewis attempted to bunt them over. He popped back to Rose for the first out of the inning. Brady Anderson followed with a single, but Charles Johnson was held at third.

Johnson eventually scored on a Bordick walk, his club-leading 33rd RBI of the season, but with the bases loaded and one out, neither B.J. Surhoff nor Belle could deliver in the clutch as both flied out.

The Orioles had at least one baserunner in every inning between the second and seventh innings, but could never get the key hits they needed and stranded eight.

B.J. Ryan came on to pitch the eighth but walked the bases loaded with no outs and was pulled after falling behind 2-0 to Mike Stanley. Jose Mercedes came in and walked Stanley. He appeared to get out of the jam when he retired the next two batters and got Offerman to hit a sharp grounder to Lewis at second. However the ball skidded off Lewis' glove and rolled into right field. That kept the inning alive and the Red Sox took advantage by scoring six runs to make it 10-1.

"That play should have been made," Hargrove said of Lewis' play, which he cited for taking away any chance the Orioles had for a comeback.

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