The Boston Red Sox began to rally in the ninth inning yesterday, and some of the Orioles immediately went into stress-management mode. Mike Mussina, the Orioles starter who left after eight innings with a six-run lead, paced in the clubhouse. Manager Davey Johnson sat on the bench, his body contorted as always, and wished he never quit chewing tobacco.
Boston scored four runs, had the potential tying run on base and masher Mo Vaughn at the plate with two outs -- and closer Randy Myers retired him on a flyout to left. The Orioles won 8-6 before 47,075 at Camden Yards, Myers got his 17th save, Mussina his 11th win, and Johnson announced that the anxiety of American League baseball has conquered him and he's going back to tobacco.
"I've got to restart my heart," said Johnson, after the Orioles (45-37) won to stay within five games of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East.
Homers by Cal Ripken (No. 17), Mike Devereaux (No. 4) and Luis Polonia (No. 2) helped build the 8-2 lead, before the Red Sox began tearing it down in the ninth.
Johnson managed 10 years in the National League, where six-run leads are almost insurmountable. Managers begin pulling their regulars when they go ahead or fall behind by six runs.
In the AL, they fret. Johnson admitted that even after Devereaux and Polonia hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning, he wondered if the six-run lead was enough. Shell shock from the first 10 weeks of the season, when Orioles pitchers were surrendering almost six runs a game.
Brady Anderson singled in the bottom of the eighth with one out, and Vaughn didn't hold him at first -- a concession that this game was over. The polite thing for Anderson to do was stay at first, not steal second.
Johnson would have none of it. He got Anderson's attention and told him to run. A six-run lead in the AL, in the home run alley that is Camden Yards? Against a team with Vaughn and Jose Canseco and all those bashers? Hah.
Mussina had thrown 113 pitches in eight strong innings, giving up only one hit after the first two innings and striking out a total of seven. But he was tired and the Red Sox had made hard outs in the eighth, so Johnson relieved him. Besides, he wanted to have Roger McDowell pitch an inning, get him some work. Pitching coach Pat Dobson hoped he'd get through the ninth with 10 to 12 pitches, and be fresh for tonight.
It wasn't that simple. Not even close.
Canseco bashed a homer over the center-field wall, and Tim Naehring singled. Johnson shifted uncomfortably on the bench, and Dobson called for Myers to start throwing in the bullpen.
McDowell hit Reggie Jefferson, to put runners at first and second, nobody out. Johnson went to the mound to check on McDowell.
"All you all right?" the manager asked.
McDowell replied, "Yeah, except for the home run and the two guys on base."
They weren't on base for long. Mike Stanley hit a double down the right-field line, and Naehring scored and Jefferson stopped at third. Johnson called on Myers.
Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy inserted former Orioles third baseman Jeff Manto as a pinch hitter, and Manto struck out on three pitches. But Jeff Frye doubled to right-center, two more runs scored, and the Red Sox were within two runs. The crisis mounted, when Myers walked Lee Tinsley on a 3-2 pitch, Tinsley checking his swing on ball four.
Myers got the ball back and walked around the mound, and went about the business of pitching to Boston shortstop John Valentin. He got ahead one ball and two strikes, and Valentin fouled off an outside fastball, Myers' most effective pitch.
But Myers fooled Valentin with his next delivery, a changeup; Valentin, far out in front, struck out. Two outs. But Vaughn, big and fearsome, an extra-base hit away from tying the game.
Myers went to three balls and one strike, and Vaughn fouled off a fastball. Three and two. Myers went outside, and Vaughn flied high to left, ending the game.
Mussina relaxed in the clubhouse, but in spite of his numbers, he wasn't fooled into thinking that this was an easy win that the relievers turned into something ugly. Part of baseball is luck, Mussina said, and he had gotten lucky several times.
"I think I figured out," Mussina said, "that the difference between a good day and an average day . . . was having your guys stand in the right places."
Troy O'Leary had smashed a ball up the middle, but Mussina knocked it down and threw to first. Naehring ripped a liner leading off the fourth -- right at Roberto Alomar. With Frye on first with nobody out in the eighth, Tinsley crushed a long drive to right-center, and Devereaux sprinted toward the wall and reached out and speared the ball, a superb play.
Frye advanced to second on a groundout, and with two outs, Vaughn mashed a liner toward left, but Cal Ripken intercepted.
"We got the breaks today," Mussina said.
Something to chew on.
Pub Date: 7/05/96
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Red Sox's Aaron Sele (2-5, 6.22) vs. Orioles' David Wells (5-7, 5.17)
Tickets: Fewer than 100 remain