Alvarez out-duels Mussina in 3-0 win


CHICAGO -- White Sox left-hander Wilson Alvarez didn't throw a no-hitter against the Orioles last night, as he did the first time he faced them. Not only that, Mike Mussina got Frank Thomas out . . . once.

As victories go, those moral ones were about the best the Orioles could take out of last night's 3-0 loss to Chicago in the opener of a three-game series at Comiskey Park, where 34,351 spectators watched Alvarez and Thomas abuse the Orioles again.

Alvarez (8-0, 2.39) threw a six-hit shutout, struck out six, and didn't walk a batter. He has gone 15-0 since returning from the minor leagues last August.

Mussina (7-2, 2.58) pitched a complete-game eight-hitter in the losing effort. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.

Three of the eight White Sox hits came off the bat of Thomas, Mussina's personal kryptonite.

Thomas singled, doubled, flied to right, and homered, improving his career numbers against Mussina to 13-for-21 with four home runs.

Mussina could do nothing but compliment the opposition.

"He's the best pitcher in the league this year," Mussina said of Alvarez.

Thomas' 18th home run, which led off the eighth inning, traveled 403 feet and cleared the fence in right-center, giving Alvarez a three-run lead to take into the 1-2-3 ninth.

"Frank's just one of those guys who has my number and there's nothing I can do about it," Mussina said of last year's American League MVP. "I'm trying to get him out. I just can't do it. I'm not the only one."

The White Sox extended their winning streak to six games and ended the Orioles' at four. Ben McDonald, opposing White Sox right-hander Jason Bere, will try to break the Sox streak tonight.

Not surprisingly, Mussina and Alvarez locked arms in a pitching duel that remained scoreless until the sixth inning, when the White Sox built on a Cal Ripken throwing error and turned it into only the fifth unearned run scored against the Orioles all season.

With two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Bob Zupcic hit a grounder to Ripken, whose throw skipped past first baseman Rafael Palmeiro for a two-base error.

Darrin Jackson, a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year honors, hit a double to the gap in left-center, scoring Zupcic to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead.

An inning later, Norberto Martin, filling in for injured shortstops Ozzie Guillen and Craig Grebeck, sent center fielder Mike Devereaux racing to the wall. Devereaux got a glove on Martin's fly, but couldn't haul it in and Martin went to third for a standup triple. He scored on Tim Raines' sacrifice fly to left, which gave the AL Central-leading White Sox a 2-0 advantage.

"He's caught that ball before," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "The ball got out there quicker than he thought, but it wasn't a routine play."

In the fifth, Mussina came perilously close to facing Thomas with the bases loaded, but worked out of the jam before Thomas had a chance to hit.

The bottom of the order, Ron Karkovice and Martin, singled off Mussina to start the inning, bringing up Raines with runners on the corners.

Raines popped to third baseman Leo Gomez in foul territory, bringing Joey Cora to the plate, Thomas to the on-deck circle. Mussina fell behind Cora, 3-1.

Cora then fouled off ball four, causing the city of Chicago to groan. Cora went on to pop up to Gomez, killing Thomas' chance to break open the game.

"We were sitting in the dugout, talking about that being a pretty good situation to hit in," Oates said. "A 3-1 count with Frank on deck. You should be able to make a pretty good living hitting in that situation."

Mussina got him out and the Orioles sighed.

But the night belonged to Alvarez.

"I thought he was around the plate all night," Oates said. "He and [Yankees left-hander Jim] Abbott are pitching inside as well as any two pitchers in the league."

Alvarez was just another in a long line of aces to oppose Mussina.

Mussina can't be accused of building his winning percentage, the best in franchise history, by beating up on a bunch of patsies.

For a change, Mussina didn't face an Opening Day starter. Instead, he merely faced a fellow Cy Young Award contender. It was only the fourth time in 11 starts Mussina was not opposed by an Opening Day starter. Mussina has beaten Kevin Appier, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

But the Orioles didn't give him a chance to beat Alvarez.

"I know I'm going to lose someday," said Alvarez, who is two victories short of the American League record shared by Cleveland's Johnny Allen and the Orioles' Dave McNally. "Right now, I'm just going at the hitters. I'm more aggressive and confident. That's it."

Oates had no complaints about the man he had on the mound.

"I thought Mike threw the ball extremely well," Oates said. "Our defense let us down a little. Our offense let us down a little and the combination of that made for a pretty quick long night."


Chris Sabo says his playing behind Leo Gomez at third base "is ridiculous."

Article, 8C


Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Ben McDonald (8-2, 3.65) vs. White Sox's Jason Bere (5-1, 3.36)

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