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Mussina of old reappears


Just call it Mike Mussina making a point.

His 4-3 record and 4.15 ERA going into yesterday's game had prompted some skeptics to say that Mussina had lost his dominating edge. A team-high 11 home runs allowed sparked more questions about how long it would take for Mussina to return to form.

Consider the questions answered during yesterday's 8-2 Orioles victory over Seattle.

Mussina threw 69 strikes in 98 pitches. He retired 19 of the last 21 batters he faced in the 91-degree heat.

More importantly, Mussina yielded two runs in eight innings and never allowed the Mariners to carry over the momentum from their comeback victory on Wednesday.

"I thought it might take this long," Mussina said. "It's been a feeling-out process. It's not been a normal year. It's been a strange year. You didn't have spring training. You didn't have six starts to build up to Opening Day. You had three, and they shoved you out in a game. It's different."

What wasn't different was how easily Mussina handled the Mariners. Mussina raised his career record against Seattle to 4-0 and has held the Mariners to eight runs in 29 1/3 innings (2.45 ERA).

Mussina (5-3, 3.90 ERA) faced more than the minimum three batters in just two of his eight innings, and only four Mariners advanced past first base. He also exhibited his usual control, striking out six and walking only one.

The Mariners managed to lift three hits out of the infield against Mussina, who gave up a home run in his eighth consecutive start and his 12th overall in 60 innings. Last year, Mussina surrendered 19 home runs in 176 1/3 innings.

But yesterday that was his only mistake.

"I guess I expect a good game from him every time he is on the mound," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "He studies the hitters and how the hitters try to hit him. It's not easy to pitch here with the power alleys only being 360 [feet]."

But Mussina hasn't discovered any of those problems with pitching at Camden Yards. In fact, all five of his victories this season have come here.

Mussina is 25-10 in his career at Camden Yards and is the winningest pitcher at the ballpark. On the road, Mussina is 0-2 with a 5.03 ERA this year.

"The only difference is that I have a refrigerator in my house and I don't have one in my hotel room," Mussina said. "Honestly, I don't know what the difference is. I'll make improvements on the road."

Yet another point for Mussina to make. And Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles said he knows what happens when Mussina focuses on a goal.

"Obviously, I've caught a lot of great games by him and this ranks up near the top," Hoiles said. "He's a great pitcher who has great ideas and great game plans. And he executes them. That's the way Moose is."

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