With bats, gloves, Orioles come to Mussina's defense


CLEVELAND -- Mike Mussina got by with a little help from his friends last night. And the right-hander didn't hesitate to deflect much of the credit for his 18th win to his teammates.

"There's a lot of little things you can point to," Mussina said after the Orioles came from behind to beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2, in 10 innings. "We had the double plays [three], Brady [Anderson] making a diving stop to turn a double into a single, a pitchout to catch a guy stealing -- and then the home runs,"

Mussina said. "I always have said these guys will score sooner or later -- I just didn't expect it to go until there were two outs in the ninth inning."

That's when Mike Devereaux, who injured his left thumb while making a diving catch an inning later, responded to a mistake pitch by Eric Plunk by hitting his 24th home run to tie the score. Fittingly, it was Anderson's single that set up the game-tying home run.

"Those two have carried us offensively all year," manager Johnny Oates repeated for the umpteenth time. "Any time you get a two-run homer to tie it with two outs in the ninth inning, it's pretty exciting."

Before Plunk entered in the eighth, the Orioles had been restricted to one hit by left-hander Dennis Cook. They still had only two hits when Anderson lined a single to center field with one out in the ninth, when Oates may have won a game by playing musical chairs.

Left-hander Derek Lilliquist was throwing in the bullpen while right-hander Plunk pitched to left-handed pinch hitters Chito Martinez and Joe Orsulak, with Anderson sandwiched in between. During this time, Chris Hoiles was very visible getting RTC loose in the Orioles dugout.

Rather than make two moves and wind up with Steve Olin (29 saves) facing Devereaux, Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove let Plunk face the left-handers -- and Devereaux. When Devereaux went deep, it turned out to be a non-move Hargrove undoubtedly would reconsider.

For Mussina, the home run by Devereaux and another by Glenn && Davis (No. 13) leading off the 10th provided him a chance not only to get the win, but to improve his standing in the race for the American League Cy Young Award.

"I pitched just well enough to win," said the 23-year-old pitcher, who survived because he was able to stay away from the big inning.

It wasn't a typical Mussina performance because he gave up a dozen hits, and had at least one runner in all but one of the nine innings he worked. "You have to give Cleveland some credit for that," Oates said. "They have a good offensive club.

"Mike wasn't as overpowering as he's been at times this year, but he just keeps going after them. He makes them swing the bat."

Even though he had done his best impression of a right-handed Mike Cuellar, Mussina was on the verge of losing for the first time in nine starts. But Plunk, who had allowed only three home runs in 67 1/3 innings before last night, made a fatal mistake on a 1-and-2 pitch.

"I was a little surprised to see a breaking ball," Devereaux said. "His fastball was getting by me. In that situation you have to be looking for the fastball because you can't hit it if you're looking for anything else.

"He [Plunk] just happened to hang a curveball, and I saw it," Devereaux said.

When the ball cleared the fence, Mussina turned to Oates and asked: "Am I still pitching?"

For a second, the manager was startled. "I told him, 'I hope so, because I don't have anybody ready,' " Oates said.

Once Mussina got through the ninth, however, he was finished for the night -- even though he went to the mound at the start of the 10th inning. "I wanted to give him one more chance to get the win [by pitching the bottom of the ninth]," Oates said. "But if we hadn't scored in the 10th, Storm [Davis] was coming in, if we did it was Olie [Gregg Olson].

"We had Storm ready, but Gregg didn't start throwing until after Glenn hit his home run. It was only a seven-pitch inning, and he didn't have enough time to get ready, so we sent Mike out to warm up, just buying more time," Oates said.

"When I went out there [to make the pitching change], he [Mussina] said, 'Why are you taking me out now -- I've got better stuff than I did last inning,' " Oates said.

At that point, it didn't matter how well Mussina was throwing. He had thrown 120 pitches, been able to stay around long enough to qualify for the win, and there was no need to stay any longer.

Olson retired the last three batters to record his 36th save (one less than his club record), but not before Devereaux sustained an injury that could possibly cut his season short.

Jess Levis hit a fly ball to left-center field on Olson's first pitch, and Devereaux had a long run before diving to make the catch. It wasn't apparent at first, but he hurt his thumb making the catch.

Devereaux left the clubhouse with his hand wrapped and his thumb in a splint. He is scheduled to have X-rays today.

"It's just precautionary," Devereaux said.

Asked if he hoped to play tonight, the center fielder replied: "I'm ,, planning on it."

Oates is hoping, but not necessarily planning, that Devereaux is right.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad