TORONTO -- Mike Mussina set a few milestones yesterday, just not the one he coveted most.
The Orioles, whose last 20-game winner was Mike Boddicker in 1984, carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning yesterday, and Mussina was on the verge of winning 20 for the first time in his career. But Armando Benitez allowed a game-tying home run in the ninth to leave Mussina with a no-decision.
Earlier in the game, Mussina set an Orioles record for strikeouts in a season with 204, breaking Dave McNally's mark of 202 set in 1968. Mussina also set a personal high for innings pitched in a season (243 1/3 innings).
"It's disappointing I didn't win 20 games, but I guess I'll just have to win 18 or 19 for the next 10 or 12 years and be happy with that," Mussina said.
He broke the record by striking out Sandy Martinez to end the seventh inning. Mussina, who had nine strikeouts for the game, knew he had set the mark and picked up the ball after the plate umpire rolled it back to the mound.
"For whatever reason, I was able to keep track of how many strikeouts I needed and I knew going into the seventh I was one under the record," Mussina said. "I wish I could've got 20 wins and all of that, but this is special, too."
Rodriguez gets first start
By clinching the wild card, the Orioles are allowed the luxury of setting up their pitching rotation for the playoffs.
David Wells was scheduled to pitch today, but will be replaced by rookie Nerio Rodriguez, who with his first major-league start completes an amazing jump from struggling Single-A catcher a little more than a year ago.
He's 0-0 with a 5.91 ERA in seven relief appearances, with eight strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. Wells will start Game 1 of the divisional playoffs Tuesday at Camden Yards, on six days' rest.
Scott Erickson, who pitched Friday, tentatively is scheduled to pitch Game 2 on Wednesday, and Mussina is expected to start Game 3 on Friday in Cleveland.
Rhodes to pitch today
Reliever Arthur Rhodes, who hasn't pitched for the Orioles since Aug. 4 because of inflammation in his left shoulder, was in the bullpen yesterday and is expected to see action today.
"I'm excited to throw again," said Rhodes, who was surprised yesterday when pitching coach Pat Dobson told him he wouldn't be throwing on the side before the game. "I'm going to just let it ride."
Rhodes was activated from the disabled list Friday, after missing most of the second half with his shoulder injury.
Mills also available
Alan Mills also was available to pitch in relief yesterday.
Mills warmed up in the late innings, but has not pitched in a game since aggravating his groin injury Monday. He expects to get some work today, and Johnson is counting on him for the postseason.
"Man, I was out there today [in the bullpen]," Mills said. "It felt good. I don't want to jinx anything, but it felt good."
Johnson said he's still concerned with Mills aggravating the injury. "We'll keep checking how [he] feels," Johnson said. "Hopefully, he'll be all right."
Incaviglia lauds chemistry
Pete Incaviglia said he has never seen a group of players as close-knit as the 1993 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies team he played for, but this year's Orioles club comes close.
Incaviglia was acquired in late August and said with all the stars the Orioles have assembled, he expected guys to be off doing their own thing. Instead, he found a team with great clubhouse chemistry and, for the most part, a general fondness for one another.
"We're a pretty tight-knit group, a lot tighter than what I expected coming in here," Incaviglia said. "It's a very pleasant situation. It's amazing to me how much time we all spend together. It's fun. That's what the game is all about.
"A lot of guys here are in a position where they could whine or complain a lot. But I really haven't seen that."
Incaviglia wasn't surprised by his role with the team. He has been relegated to the bench, but gets occasional starts against left-handers.
"I'm very happy," he said. "I have no complaints. It's a difficult job coming off the bench and not playing every day, but I knew what my role would be. I accept that. I just want to keep winning."
Happy return for Tarasco
All he did was stand at second base, but for Tony Tarasco, it was an accomplishment.
Tarasco entered Friday's game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner, his first appearance with the Orioles since May 11.
"It felt like it was my first big-league game," Tarasco said. "It surprised me that [Johnson] put me in. I didn't expect it.
"I was nervous, excited and all I was doing was pinch running. It felt like it was the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series."
Tarasco had shoulder surgery in June, and was expected to miss the rest of the year, but he rehabilitated ahead of schedule and was activated Sept. 13.
Because he hasn't played in so long, Johnson told Tarasco he would not be included on the Orioles' playoff roster for the first round, but he could be used if someone gets hurt. Teams also can re-evaluate their rosters between rounds of the playoffs, so Tarasco conceivably could be activated for the AL Championship Series.
"That's what I'm shooting for," Tarasco said. "I'm ready to play."
Pub Date: 9/29/96