- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

BALTIMORE [-] Mike Mussina’s manager came to the mound to take the ball from him, sparking the Camden Yards crowd to rise to its feet as the starter strolled to the dugout.

Just like old times. The difference, of course, was that the manager was Joe Torre and that this standing ovation wasn’t enjoyed by the recipient.

Mussina, the ex-Oriole, only recorded eight outs before being pulled in the third inning of Baltimore’s much-needed 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees last night in front of 36,023 at Camden Yards.

Mussina, who went 147-81 in 10 seasons with Baltimore, lost for the first time as a visitor in his former home. Since becoming a Yankee in 2001, Mussina was 3-0 here and 5-1 overall against Baltimore.

“Every pitcher that pitches, they’re going to have 34 starts,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “They’re going to have five or six no-brainers where they go out and they can lay their glove out there and they’re going to win and dominate. Then there’s going to be five or six where they might as well throw it left-handed because nothing’s going to work.

“I think that was just one of those nights for Moose.”

Mussina’s (10-5) poor outing was a microcosm of an unpredictable night of baseball.

A Yankees club that had won a season-high eight in a row and 16 of 18 was finally brought down to earth. The Orioles, losers of five straight and 18 of 25, suddenly put together a performance devoid of any of the mistakes that had plagued them over the past month. And they did it against an opponent that had beaten them nine straight times.

To top it off, the winning pitcher was Rodrigo Lopez (2-4), who entered the night with a 7.63 ERA after giving up seven earned runs in 1[2/3] innings in a loss at Toronto last Thursday.

It was an encouraging start for Lopez, who spent six weeks on the disabled list this season and struggled to display the form that helped him become Most Valuable Oriole in 2002 with a 15-9 record.

“I’m feeling really well physically,” Lopez said. “I started getting more confidence and working the way I like. I gave up a lot of hits, but none of those power hits.”

Lopez surrendered 12 hits last night, but he held New York to only one run in 6[2/3] innings and kept eight Yankees baserunners from scoring.

Mussina wasn’t as fortunate.

Baltimore used back-to-back doubles from Jay Gibbons and Tony Batista to score the game’s first run in the second inning, with Batista’s RBI rope to right-center field ending a 23-inning scoreless stretch Mussina had going against the Orioles.

Then the floodgates opened in the third when Baltimore sent 10 batters to the plate.

Jeff Conine, who was 6-for-27 lifetime against Mussina, started things with an RBI double to left and Batista followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice groundout that could have been a lot worse. Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura robbed Batista of a bases loaded double when he dove to his left and, with his right knee touching dirt, threw across the diamond for the out.

B.J. Surhoff followed with a two-out, two-run double to the wall in left-center to score Conine and Gibbons and give the Orioles an early 5-0 lead. Mussina then surrendered a single and a walk before being pulled after 2[2/3] innings for reliever Sterling Hitchcock, who got Brian Roberts to pop up to third with the bases loaded.

The Orioles added a run in the fourth on a solo homer to left from Melvin Mora and took a 7-0 lead when Roberts scored on an infield error by Ventura.

New York’s first run came in the seventh when Lopez couldn’t field a come-backer by Ruben Sierra that scored Karim Garcia from third and chased Lopez from the game. Garcia cut the deficit to four in the eighth with his second two-run homer in as many games.

But that would be all the first-place Yankees could muster, allowing the fourth-place Orioles to revel in a victorious clubhouse atmosphere with Aerosmith blaring on the stereo.

“Anytime you can play with the Yankees and beat them, it’s pretty special,” Hargrove said.

Notes [-] Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley was ejected between the second and third innings by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. Crowley was tossed after Geronimo Gil struck out looking to end the second. […] Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony, chosen by Denver with the third pick in last week’s NBA Draft, attended last night’s game. He was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, but didn’t arrive in time.

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