- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001


BALTIMORE The navy blue cap with the intertwined "NY" atop his head was different. The visitors' dugout, clubhouse and bullpen all took some getting used to. Even the view from the pitcher's mound at Camden Yards, which he had experienced on 288 previous occasions, was strange.

But when it was all said and done, when the sellout crowd of 47,740 fans had made its way out of the ballpark and all the handshakes had been exchanged, there was nothing unusual about the outcome.

Mike Mussina pitched in Baltimore and Mike Mussina won the game. He just happened to do it for the New York Yankees.

The Orioles' former ace was every bit as good in his return visit as local fans remembered him. He allowed one run and six hits over seven innings as the Yankees completed a four-game sweep of Baltimore with a 2-1 victory yesterday afternoon.

Given a warm though not thunderous ovation as he took the mound in the bottom of the first inning, Mussina probably couldn't have asked for much more on the day he earned his 150th career win.

"I've been saying for a couple of weeks now that I expected a little bit of everything, and there was a little bit of everything, people cheering and people not cheering," said Mussina (3-3), who signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal with New York over the winter. "I play for the Yankees, and it's a situation that's tough for a lot of people to swallow. I got what I expected to get, and I was just glad that I threw well and gave our guys a chance."

Facing several of his longtime teammates along with a handful of newcomers, the right-hander kept the Orioles off-balance all afternoon, allowing only one run before turning things over to relievers Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera.

Victory, though, did not come easily for Mussina and the Yankees. New York was shut down by Baltimore starter Jason Johnson for six innings, then rallied to tie the game in the seventh and took the lead in the eighth when Scott Brosius hit his third home run of the series a solo shot off reliever Mike Trombley.

As a result, the Orioles lost their fifth in a row and fell six games below the .500-mark for the first time this year. This, despite having lost the last four games by a total of seven runs.

"We were swept, and it's tough to lose four in a row," Brady Anderson said. "If you break it down game by game, I don't know how much consolation you can get from saying we were in every game."

Johnson was every bit as impressive as Mussina and was on his way to stealing the show. In seven innings, he scattered six hits, struck out three, walked none and pitched his way out of a jam in the top of the sixth.

With one out, Derek Jeter doubled down the right field line and moved to third on Paul O'Neill's groundout. Facing cleanup hitter Bernie Williams, Johnson fired a two-strike forkball that appeared to cross the plate at Williams' knees but was called a ball by umpire Dana DeMuth. No matter, Johnson followed that up with a 94-mph fastball to get Williams looking.

"Everything was solid," Johnson said. "My arm felt great. All my pitches were there. I even threw a forkball for the first time in my career. It was a pretty good all-around game for me."

The Yankees finally got to Johnson in the seventh. He gave up back-to-back singles to Tino Martinez and David Justice before he yielded a sacrifice fly to Jorge Posada that tied the game 1-1.

Johnson took the mound in the eighth, but was pulled before he could throw a pitch and Trombley was called upon to face Brosius.

The veteran right-hander has been manager Mike Hargrove's most-reliable reliever this season, having allowed just four runs in 20* innings. Brosius worked the count to 2-2 and then turned on a hanging curveball from Trombley (1-1) and sent it into the left field stands for his fifth home run of the season, third in four games.

Hargrove defended his decision to take Johnson out of the game.

"If I had to do it over again, I'd do the same thing," he said. "I think it was the right thing to do. [Trombley] has been very good for us this year. Today, he just hung one pitch."

Stanton and Rivera sealed the deal for Mussina when the latter walked Jeff Conine to lead off the ninth but struck out both Chris Richard and Jay Gibbons. Posada helped out when he gunned down pinch-runner Eugene Kingsale on a busted hit-and-run attempt.

The real story on this day, though, was Mussina, who left an indelible impression on some of his former teammates, many of whom had never faced the right-hander.

"That's the closest teammate or friend I've ever faced," said Anderson, who doubled off the right-field wall in the third and scored the Orioles' lone run on Mike Bordick's single. "It's sort of weird, you can play with a guy for 10 years and have no idea what it's like to face him. No one can really tell how a guy throws until you really experience it in the batter's box."

"It was strange to see him out there," said Cal Ripken, who went 2-for-3 on the day he became the Orioles' all-time leader in games played, surpassing Brooks Robinson with No. 2,897. "That knuckle-curve, I've never really experienced that before from that side of the plate. It looks weird.

"He not only has good stuff, he knows what to do with that stuff."

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