CLEVELAND -- If there was room to wonder what kind of effort might be expended by the Orioles in this final (and supposedly meaningless) series of the 1992 season, the final two innings of last night's 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians provided the answer.
Right-hander Mike Mussina pitched a gutty nine innings in his final start of the year and was rewarded with his 18th victory
when Glenn Davis won the game in the 10th with his 13th home run of the year.
But the question of quit was answered by center fielder Mike Devereaux, whose two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the top of the ninth kept the game alive, and whose spectacular diving catch in the 10th inning helped stopper Gregg Olson nail down his 36th save.
Devereaux was down to match point against Indians reliever Eric Plunk when he pulled a shot over the left-field fence to erase a two-run deficit. It was his 24th home run and it raised his club-leading RBI total to 107. Davis did the rest, victimizing Plunk in the 10th with a towering shot to left-center for his second home run in as many nights.
The catch may have kept the game from continuing well into the night. Devereaux robbed rookie catcher Jesse Levis of a leadoff double and Olson got two ground ball outs to finish up and pull within one of equaling his career save high (37).
Mussina gave up 12 hits, but that didn't keep him from improving his record to 18-5 and putting the finishing touches on an impressive first full season in the major leagues. He was &L; outpitched by Indians starter Dennis Cook, who gave up one hit over seven innings, but he was still there when it counted.
It has been a breakthrough season for Mussina, who entered the game leading the American League with a .773 winning percentage and ranks among the league leaders in ERA, victories, shutouts and opponents' batting average.
He might be a strong candidate for the Cy Young Award but for a handful of games in which he left with a lead and ended up with nodecision. The case could be made for choosing him over the league's three 20-game winners, but it would be harder to rank him above Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, who leads the league with a 2.41 ERA and leads Mussina in several statistical categories.
Mussina could have narrowed the gap last night, but he struggled through the early innings, falling behind in the second when Paul Sorrento led off with a sharp double to right and scored on a one-out single by Carlos Martinez.
The Indians had five hits in the first three innings, which wouldn't be particularly significant if Mussina had not been so dominating in his previous six starts. He had pitched into the eighth inning or later in all of those games and had given up an average of only five hits in each.
Mussina has not lost since he dropped an 8-4 decision to Toronto on Aug. 10. Since then, he has given up two runs or fewer in seven of nine starts and has an ERA of 1.75.
He didn't fool Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga, who doubled twice and singled in his first three at-bats to inch closer to his first 200-hit season. Baerga needs just two more hits to become the first second baseman in American League history to hit .300 with at least 200 hits, 20 home runs and 100 RBI in the
The only National League second baseman to reach those statistical levels in one season was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who did it five times.
Baerga had Mussina's number, but he couldn't do much with it. None of his hits contributed to a score and he flied out in his only at-bat with a runner on base.
Mussina settled in for the long haul, but he had to outlast an Indians ballclub that has been very resourceful in the second half and a starting pitcher who was very much on top of his game.
Cook flirted with a no-hitter until Davis lined a one-out single in the fifth. Cook pitched to one batter over the minimum through seven innings, with three double plays.
Though Cook carried the one-hitter through seven innings, Indians manager Mike Hargrove brought on right-hander Eric Plunk in the eighth and would live to regret it. Plunk was handed an insurance run when Albert Belle doubled home Felix Fermin in the bottom of the eighth, but gave up the game-tying home run in the ninth to take the decision away from Cook.
+ Orioles-Indians scoring Indians second: Sorrento doubled down the left-field line. Jefferson flied to right fielder Mercedes, Sorrento to third. Martinez singled to right, Sorrento scored. Whiten singled to left-center, Martinez to third. Ortiz grounded into double play, second baseman B. Ripken to shortstop C. Ripken to first baseman Milligan, Whiten out at second. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Indians 1, Orioles 0.
Indians eighth: McLemore to second base, batting 6th. Segui to first base, batting 8th. Fermin singled to center. Baerga flied to center fielder Devereaux. Belle doubled to left-center, Fermin scored. Sorrento intentionally walked. Howard ran for Belle. Jefferson grounded into double play, second baseman McLemore to shortstop C. Ripken to first baseman Segui, Sorrento out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Indians 2, Orioles 0.
Orioles ninth: Howard to left field, batting fourth. Martinez, pinch-hitting for Tackett, struck out. Anderson singled to center. Orsulak pinch hitting for Mercedes. On Plunk's wild pitch, Anderson to second. Orsulak lined to second baseman Baerga. Devereaux homered to left on 1-2 count, Anderson and Devereaux scored. C. Ripken flied to right fielder Whiten. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 2, Indians 2.
Orioles 10th: G. Davis homered to left-center on 0-0 count. McLemore popped to shortstop Fermin. Hulett singled down the right-field line. Segui grounded into double play, first baseman Sorrento to shortstop Fermin to first baseman Sorrento. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 3, Indians 2.