- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

BALTIMORE When Mike Mussina made his debut at Camden Yards as a visiting pitcher last season, the ballpark was abuzz with anticipation. This was one of the biggest events of the year, the return of the man who led the Baltimore Orioles' pitching staff for a decade, wearing the uniform of their most despised rival.
When Mussina took the mound again last night in his New York Yankees uniform, there was no such fanfare. The crowd was far under capacity only 33,317 braved another chilly night and the response when Mussina's name was announced was not nearly as boisterous as last season.
This was all business, and Mussina went to work on his former teammates. Dominating the Orioles from the start, Mussina pitched seven shutout innings, and Robin Ventura took advantage of a poor pitch by Sidney Ponson to lead the Yankees to a 4-1 victory.
"I got a year [behind me] and I got to see what it's like," Mussina said. "But it's still strange coming back here anytime. It's going to be strange for a while."
After shocking New York with a 10-3 victory Opening Day, the young Orioles dropped the final two games of their season-opening series, though they certainly had chances to win the last two nights.
"If we pitch the entire season the way we've pitched, we're going to be all right," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, whose staff has a 2.33 ERA through three games. "We just need to figure out a way to generate some offense. We had some chances tonight. We just didn't do anything with them."
Ponson's downfall since his big league debut in 1998 has been his lack of maturity as a pitcher, a trait that was excusable at 21 but won't be tolerated much longer at 25.
Last night's game offered a perfect example. Having pitched extremely well for three innings, Ponson got himself into trouble in the fourth when Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada singled. Ponson battled back with two outs, though, and got ahead of Ventura 0-2 with a pair of fastballs.
With an opportunity to throw virtually any pitch he wanted and a chance of getting out of the inning unscathed, Ponson went back to his fastball. He said later that he wanted to throw the pitch "6 to 10 inches off the plate" but wound up grooving it. Ventura, whose solo homer accounted for the lone run in Wednesday's game, deposited this one 422 feet to straightaway center field, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
"It's all my fault," Ponson said. "I didn't make the pitch that I wanted to make, and I got hurt. You're going to get hurt really hard here if you cannot make your 0-2 pitches. I cannot keep doing that all year."
Perhaps still fazed by the Ventura blast, Ponson served up another home run to rookie first baseman Nick Johnson to lead off the fifth.
On some nights, Ponson might have been able to get away with giving up four runs. On this night, against this opposing pitcher, four runs might as well have been 12.
Mussina was plenty successful against his former team in 2001, posting a 3-1 record in five starts, including a three-hit, 13-strikeout shutout Sept. 28 at Yankee Stadium. He was just as good last night.
Mussina's only shaky inning came in the second, when Jay Gibbons' single, Melvin Mora's double and a walk to Geronimo Gil loaded the bases for Mike Bordick. But the veteran shortstop fouled out to third on the first pitch he saw, ending the inning.
"He was definitely on," said Bordick, who went 0-for-3 against Mussina, 0-for-4 on the night. "He really didn't put anything over the middle of the plate. He constantly mixed it up, you couldn't sit on any one pitch and he was throwing every pitch for a strike."
Mussina allowed just three more runners to reach before he was pulled after the seventh. He departed having held Baltimore to four hits and a walk, while striking out three.
The Orioles threatened in the ninth against New York closer Mariano Rivera; Mora singled home Gibbons with one out for Baltimore's lone run, but Rivera struck out pinch hitter Brook Fordyce and got Bordick to fly out.
Notes Outfielder Gary Matthews, acquired late Wednesday night from the New York Mets for left-hander John Bale, appeared in the Orioles clubhouse for the first time yesterday and seemed encouraged by the prospect of playing for his fifth organization in three years.
"Hopefully, this will be my last stop for a while," said Matthews, who will be used in Baltimore as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter.
The 27-year-old son of the former National League outfielder of the same name made his debut with the San Diego Padres, was traded to the Cubs in 2000, claimed off waivers by the Pirates in 2001 and then sold to the Mets for cash last winter.

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