NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina could afford to be patient last night. He pitched well enough to wait for some offensive help from his struggling teammates, and it arrived just in time.
Cal Ripken delivered a tie-breaking double and the Orioles went on to score five times in the eighth inning on the way to a 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees.
Mussina worked 8 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on six hits to record his sixth win of the year. But the game was a pitched battle until the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate in the eighth to spoil a very solid performance by Yankees starter Melido Perez.
The Yankees scored a run in the ninth and forced manager Johnny Oates to go to his bullpen, but Brad Pennington and Gregg Olson (10th save) finished up with back-to-back strikeouts.
It was 1-1 through seven, and Mussina had to wonder if the game-tying home run he gave up to No. 9 hitter Pat Kelly in the sixth inning would be enough to sabotage his strong performance.
"I was upset about it," Mussina said. "Melido was throwing great. I thought it was going to be 1-1 for a while, but we got a leadoff tTC walk and Brady [Anderson] slapped the ball into right field to put runners at first and third and that got us started."
There has been a lot of talk the past few days about Ripken's new stance and renewed power, but he put the Orioles on top with a slicing fly ball to right that landed just out of the reach of outfielder Jim Leyritz and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Leo Gomez and Chris Hoiles followed with RBI singles and the Orioles broke the game open when Tim Hulett brought home a run with a ground out and David Segui added the fourth run-scoring hit of the inning.
The timing certainly was right. The victory put the Orioles in position to win the four-game series with their reassembled regular lineup tonight, when injured veterans Mike Devereaux and Harold Baines are expected to return to action.
"Hopefully, with the troops coming back tomorrow, maybe we can turn it up a notch," Mussina said.
The club's inability to score has been a major preoccupation the past few weeks, but even a subtle improvement could be pivotal if the team continues to get great pitching performances such as the one Mussina delivered last night.
He was coming off a three-inning performance that equaled the shortest outing of his major-league career. He allowed seven earned runs in a 9-3 loss to Milwaukee on Friday, giving up a grand slam to Kevin Reimer and failing to go at least five innings for only the third time in 53 big-league starts.
Oates admitted after the game that he was a little concerned about the way his young right-hander would rebound. Mussina has been nearly automatic since he arrived in the major leagues midway through the 1991 season, so he hasn't had a lot of experience handling adversity.
"I was -- somewhere deep down -- looking at how he would react," Oates said, "because he hasn't had to deal with that before."
It did not take Mussina long to get back on top of his game. He carried a shutout into the sixth inning and dominated a Yankees lineup that just lost cleanup hitter Danny Tartabull (bruised kidney) for at least the next two weeks.
"It's not like I've never had a bad outing before," Mussina said, "but I was wondering, too, because in the past when I have had a bad game, I've usually had a couple in a row. Maybe the start before the last one, when I gave up 10 hits and only one run, maybe that was the first of two mediocre games."
The Orioles continue to struggle at the plate, but they managed to get a run on the board in the third when Segui doubled and reserve outfielder Jack Voigt singled him home. It was Voigt's first major-league RBI and it came at a good time, since Mussina is the kind of pitcher who has a chance to throw a shutout every time he takes the mound.
"You just know he is a guy you can depend on to give you a good outing," Oates said. "You can't take it for granted or it might jump up and bite you, but when he goes out there, you know you've got a chance to win. It's a very positive feeling."
The shutout lasted until Kelly led off the sixth with his game-tying home run. Kelly, who had provided all of the Yankees' run-production with a bases-empty home run off left-hander Jamie Moyer the night before, jumped on the first pitch and hit his fourth home run. It was the first time in his brief career he has homered in back-to-back games.
Perez came into the game with a 4-1 lifetime record against the Orioles, but he should be able to identify with the travails of Orioles left-handers Fernando Valenzuela and Moyer. The Yankees scored 15 runs in his first seven starts, an average of 2.1 per game.
He found himself in another low-scoring affair last night, giving up four hits through the first seven innings and needing the Kelly homer just to stay even.
If Mussina benefited from the absence of Tartabull and injured Don Mattingly from the Yankees lineup, Perez certainly couldn't complain about the offensive lineup that greeted him last night. Three of the last four batters in the batting order -- Paul Carey, Hulett and Voigt -- came into the game with two RBI among them.
Voigt was making only his second start of the year, and there was room to wonder if he might be getting a last look before the Orioles activate Devereaux and Baines. His hit put the Orioles on top, but it was the leadoff walk he accepted in the eighth that may have been his most important contribution.