The Orioles traded for Bobby Bonilla for a reason -- they don't believe they can keep winning games like they did last night, getting outhit 9-5 but defeating the Chicago White Sox, 4-3, before a sellout crowd of 47,353 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Seven solid innings by Mike Mussina, home runs by Rafael Palmeiro and Greg Zaun, and last night's game was still in doubt.
Mussina (12-5) became the American League's first 12-game winner last night, striking out seven, walking three (including Frank Thomas twice) and giving up two runs. Wilson Alvarez (4-6) pitched well but took the loss.
The Orioles have averaged 6.1 runs in Mussina's past seven starts, and he has pitched like a champ.
He is 6-0 with a 3.35 ERA in 42 2/3 innings pitched. His strikeouts (35) are up and his home runs allowed (three) are down.
The bullpen almost blew it for him when Mussina departed after the seventh with a 4-2 lead.
With one out in the eighth, Mark Lee gave up a bases-empty home to -- who else? -- Thomas. Lee was ahead 0-2 and fed Thomas a belt-high fastball right down the middle. It was Thomas' league-leading 27th home run.
Then Lee gave up a single to Robin Ventura (three strikeouts). Terry Clark came in to bail him out and retired Mike Devereaux on a hard liner to left. Ray Durham nearly poled a double down the right-field line before grounding out to short.
Doug Jones even made his 19th save interesting. He struck out John Kruk, who then got ejected, got Ozzie Guillen to ground out to third and then gave up a two-out single to Lance Johnson. Johnson advanced to second on a wild pick-off throw by Jones, who struck out Tim Raines to end the game.
The Orioles didn't give Mussina six runs of support, but they gave him two early runs on Palmeiro's homer.
After Alvarez hit the second hitter, Bret Barberie, with a pitch, Rafael Palmeiro wrapped a two-run shot 316-feet around the right-field foul pole. It was Palmeiro's team-leading 21st home run of the year. He has hit safely in 14 of his past 15 games.
Zaun added another run in the fifth, leading off with a 373-foot homer left field and gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Zaun has gotten hot since taking over for injured catcher Chris Hoiles 10 games ago, hitting safely in six of his last seven games and batting 10-for-21 with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.
Mussina got into some trouble in the sixth. Johnson led off with his third home run with the bases empty, over the right-field scoreboard.
After Raines grounded out to third, Dave Martinez singled to center and Thomas walked. With men at first and second and one out, Ventura struck out swinging and Devereaux grounded into a fielder's choice.
Johnson (3-for-4, two RBIs) got to Mussina again in the seventh, hitting back-to-back doubles with Guillen down the right-field line. Guillen advanced to third on a throwing error by Zaun and scored on Johnson's double. Chicago trailed, 3-2.
The Orioles responded with a run in their half of the inning. Jeff Manto walked with one out. Then he showed some heads up base running on Devereaux's errant relay throw on Zaun's single to right, trudging home and extending the Orioles' lead to 4-2.
Mussina struck out six White Sox in the first five innings. Most of them just watched his pitches go by -- Mussina struck out five of the six on called third strikes.
Johnson led off the first inning with a sharp single to right, but Tim Raines grounded into a double play. But Mussina landed himself right back into trouble when he walked Dave Martinez because the man on deck was none-other than the Big Hurt.
Thomas has owned Mussina: He's hitting .560 (14-25) with four doubles and five home runs. One of them came during Mussina's last start against Chicago July 28, a sixth-inning bases-empty shot that spoiled Mussina's five innings of shutout ball.
This time Mussina did the smart thing, he walked Thomas. It didn't matter that he was ahead in the count 0-2, Mussina gave him a league-leading 87th free pass. He struck out Robin Ventura, swinging to end the inning.
Ventura's whiff began a string of seven straight outs. That's when started the White Sox started looking at strike three -- Martinez to end the third, Ventura and Mike Devereaux to end the fourth and Mike LaValliere in the fifth.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: White Sox's Mike Bertotti (first 1995 start) vs. Orioles' Rick Krivda (0-0, 3.18)
# Tickets: 170 remain