Orioles can hit Morris, but can they beat him?


Teams have had no trouble hitting or scoring runs off Jack Morris. Now all they have to do is find a way to beat him consistently.

Although Morris is last in the Cleveland starting rotation with a 5.20 earned-run average and allows an average of 10 hits per nine innings, he is third on the club with nine wins. He probably can be accused of winning with the help of mirrors since he doesn't have his dominating fastball to bail himself out anymore.

Morris will try to improve on his 17-15 career record vs. the Orioles as he starts here for the Indians tonight against Mike Mussina.

Even though Morris doesn't rely totally on power pitching anymore, he has thrown 12 wild pitches and walked 53 in 126 1/3 innings. Morris averages 1.6 base runners each inning, but has won almost half of his starts (nine wins in 20 starts).

Morris, who has a career record of 253-186 (.576 winning percentage), seems to be a perfect fit in his first year with the Indians.

He is 6-2 at the Indians' new ballpark, Jacobs Field. In his last start, Morris beat Chicago there, yielding six runs in five innings.

That's Morris' style, to pitch well enough to win. He has won six of eight decisions at home even with a 5.43 ERA, but has the luxury of having the Indians' batting order behind him.

Cleveland ranks in the top two in 13 of 25 American League team offensive catagories. The Indians lead the league in batting average, hits, total bases and slugging percentage.

Albert Belle is in the heart of the potent lineup. He has homered in six of his past eight games, including two in yesterday's doubleheader. Belle also has five homers in eight games against the Orioles this year.

Unlike Morris, Mike Mussina enjoys better success on the road. At Camden Yards, Mussina has recorded three of his four losses this year and has a 3.65 ERA, nearly 1.5 higher than on the road.

Last Friday, Mussina gave up four runs in eight innings in beating Oakland, 5-4. That victory raised his road record to 6-1.

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