Mike Mussina may have looked like he was digging himself a hole out there last night, but someone else was doing it for him. Boston Red Sox pitcher John Dopson gouged such a large hole in front of the mound that Mussina couldn't land properly on his front foot.
That might explain why he allowed 14 base runners and wasn't around when the Orioles came from behind to score a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox last night at Camden Yards. He allowed just one run, but he wasn't the same pitcher that had just shut out the Minnesota Twins in back-to-back games.
"Dopson is a big guy and he was making a large hole where his foot landed," manager Johnny Oates said. "Mike was hitting the edge of that hole, so he moved to the side of the rubber. Dopson also moved over and I don't think Mike ever got comfortable."
Somehow, Mussina still made a creditable run at his third shutout in a row. He ran his scoreless innings streak to 23 innings before the Red Sox scored a run on a one-out single by Billy Hatcher in the sixth inning. He didn't make history by tying the club record for consecutive shutouts, but he did give up just one run over 6 1/3 innings to drop his ERA to 2.43.
Perhaps he would have been sharper if the conditions had been better, but he didn't make much of the mound controversy after a home run by Leo Gomez and a sacrifice fly by Mark Leonard carried the Orioles to their third straight comeback victory.
"That's an excuse," he said, "but he [Dopson] did dig a pretty big hole and I couldn't get out of it. My stuff wasn't very good, so I was trying to follow the scouting report. That wasn't working DTC either, so I was making things up as I went along. It doesn't matter how many hits you give up, it's the runs that count and fortunately they didn't score too many."
Mussina gave way to reliever Jim Poole in the seventh and was not involved in the decision. Right-hander Todd Frohwirth got the victory for 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief and rookie Brad Pennington finished up to record his first major-league save.