The Bash Brothers didn't raise a forearm last night, but the renewed and improved Oakland Athletics left behind some bruised egos when they slipped out of Baltimore.
Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina brought home a run with a wild pitch and set up the go-ahead run with another to help the A's complete a three-game sweep with a 4-2 victory at Camden Yards. The loss, combined with Toronto's 8-7 win over Minnesota, knocked the Orioles out of first place in the American League East.
The Orioles had been next to invincible at home until the A's arrived in town, but even their last unbeaten pitcher could not keep the Oakland lineup under wraps. Mussina was able to keep Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire from putting any more dents in the new stadium, but he could not contain the lower end of the A's lineup.
The bottom four spots in the Oakland batting order accounted for seven of the A's' nine hits and three of the four runs. Mussina just complicated matters with his two wild pitches and suffered his first defeat in six 1992 decisions.
"I don't know if there is a bottom of their lineup," manager Johnny Oates said. "Sometimes you think, if you can just get by Canseco and [Harold] Baines and McGwire, but there are some good hitters down there. Willie Wilson can still hit. Mike Bordick is having a great year. Those guys have been doing a great job all year."
Canseco, Baines and McGwire were a combined 1-for-12. The foursome of Terry Steinbach, Wilson, Bordick and Lance Blankenship were a combined 7-for-15.
"We take a lot of pride in having nine tough outs," A's manager Tony La Russa said. "It's terrific what those guys are doing."
Oakland right-hander Bob Welch (2-2) was not particularly sharp early, but he settled down to pitch eight strong innings and hand the Orioles their fourth consecutive loss. Stopper Dennis Eckersley pitched a very quick ninth to record his major league-leading 16th save.
It is the longest losing streak of the year for the Orioles, who lost three straight in Toronto in early April before going on a 22-8 run to build the best record in baseball. The three-game sweep featured enough misplays and missed opportunities to spoil the manager's day off today, but Oates took it philosophically.
"It seems like when you're going good, everything you try seems to work," Oates said. "Right now, the shoe's on the other foot. They got the sacrifice fly when they needed it. They got the big two-out hit. That was happening for us a while back."
Mussina was the third Orioles pitcher to take the mound in search of victory No. 6. Ben McDonald had his perfect 5-0 record blemished on Saturday, when the Chicago White Sox hammered him for seven runs in five innings at Comiskey Park. Rick Sutcliffe went after his sixth victory Monday night, but surrendered eight earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in the series opener against the A's.
The Orioles were looking to Mussina to remain on a roll and put an end to the club's three-game losing streak, but it wasn't to be. He worked eight innings and gave up four runs on seven hits to lose for the first time since Sept. 22 of last year. If not for the two wild pitches, the outcome might have been different.
"That was bothersome," Mussina said, "because it's something I don't usually do and it happened in big spots. It was just bad timing on my part and bad execution. I also gave up a hit to Blankenship in the seventh that made it 4-2. That was not a good pitch."
He had not surrendered a hit in the first inning in his first seven starts, but Rickey Henderson greeted him last night with a leadoff double and moved around to score on a sacrifice and a ground out. Mussina also gave up a double in the second inning, but got out of trouble with the help of third baseman Leo Gomez, who ranged to his left to stab a sharp line drive off the bat of Wilson.
Welch had even more trouble getting started. He allowed four of the first five batters to reach base, yet found his way out of the inning before the Orioles could do any serious damage.
Mike Devereaux started the rally with a solid single to center and Cal Ripken walked on a full-count pitch before Glenn Davis loaded the bases with a base hit to right. Welch complicated the situation by walking Randy Milligan to bring home a run, but struck out Chris Hoiles and Joe Orsulak to get out of the inning tied 1-1.
It has been that kind of year for Welch, who missed most of spring training and the first month of the season with a long list of injuries. He has had his moments -- most notably the seven shutout innings he pitched against Detroit May 7 -- but he had done little to remind anyone that he was the winningest pitcher in baseball two years ago.
The A's staked him to another slim lead in the fifth on a pair of singles and the first of the two ill-timed wild pitches by Mussina, but it would not survive the inning. Brady Anderson tied it up again with a one-out line drive over the center-field fence in the bottom of the fifth for his fifth home run of the year.
The Orioles evened the score, but they again wasted a prime opportunity to get more. Devereaux and Ripken followed with back-to-back singles to put runners at first and third, but Davis popped out and Milligan bounced into a force at second to end the threat.
Anderson continues to do the unexpected. He was hitless in 15 career at-bats against Welch when he set a single-season high with home run No. 5. His 29th RBI moved him into a tie for fourth in the league in that department.
Mussina did the unexpected, too, throwing his second wild pitch in the seventh to set up two more Oakland runs.