- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000


BALTIMORE Any talk of Mike Mussina being mired in a slump should now be officially stopped.

After struggling by his own admission earlier in the season, Mussina turned in his third straight strong performance Thursday night, looking every bit like the pitcher who was one of the dominant ones of the '90s. He didn't allow an unearned run in seven innings to lead the Baltimore Orioles past the Seattle Mariners 5-1 before 34,764 at Camden Yards.

After a 3-15 start to May, the Orioles (20-25) swept the three-game series with the Mariners, who came to Baltimore in first place in the American League West.

After giving up 12 hits and six runs in seven innings against Toronto on May 9, Mussina said he was in the worst funk of his career and searching for answers.

Apparently he has found them. In three games since, he has pitched 22 innings and given up only five earned runs. Mussina's pinpoint control allowed him to strike out a season high nine last night while scattering five hits and walking only two.

The support was rare for Mussina, who had gotten only 2.7 runs per game in his first 10 starts, a large reason why last night's win only improved him to 2-6.

The Orioles scored their first two runs in identical fashion. Mike Bordick walked against Paul Abbott and advanced to third on a base hit by Brady Anderson before scoring on a groundout by Delino DeShields in the third.

Frankie Rodriguez had to enter the game cold in the fourth after Abbott suffered a cut below his eye and on the bridge of his nose when he was hit by a piece of Harold Baines' shattered bat as well as the ball.

For Anderson, the hits continued a hot streak that has seen him go 16-for-35 the past 10 games and raise his average from .250 to .297.

Mussina, meanwhile, was cruising, giving up just one hit the first three innings. In the fourth, he allowed a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez, who took second when Albert Belle booted the ball in right field. After advancing to third on a fielder's choice, he scored on a sacrifice fly by Edgar Martinez to tie the game.

Mussina came closest to getting into a jam in the seventh when he gave up a pair of one-out singles. But he blew away pinch-hitter John Mabry and got Rickey Henderson to fly to right.

Considering his paltry run support this year, Mussina must have been shocked in the bottom of the seventh when the Orioles actually provided him with three runs. An RBI from B.J. Surhoff, who showed signs of ending his slump with two hits and a walk, scored Charles Johnson, Pinch-hitter Jeff Conine hit a bases-loaded double to score two more.

As it usually does, the Orioles' bullpen made things interesting as Al Reyes loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth. But Buddy Groom got Mike Cameron to line to right, and Mike Timlin worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save.

Note Abbott was taken to University of Maryland Medical Center where precautionary X-rays and a CAT scan were taken. Cal Ripken collected his 578th double in the fourth inning, tying him with Wade Boggs for 13th all-time.

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