CHICAGO -- Some piled stocking caps atop baseball caps. Others cursed weather more typical of November than April. Let others flinch at the elements. Last night, Mike Mussina smiled and rolled on.
Aided by Randy Myers' seventh save, Mussina gave the Orioles their third dominant starting performance of the week as they outlasted the Chicago White Sox, 1-0, before 14,674 at Comiskey Park. For those who still perceive this team as one-dimensional big swingers, take note.
Mussina sailed through eight innings, allowing three hits. Myers started the ninth and allowed a one-out single to Tony Phillips, but struck out two and got potential winning run Frank Thomas to fly out for the final out.
It was the Orioles' second shutout victory this season, one more than they had all of last year. It was also their first 1-0 victory since Aug. 2, 1995, when Mussina out-dueled Paul Menhart and the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
Even with Mussina pitching, the Orioles were again set up for a struggle. What had been a routine scribbling of a lineup during the season's first two weeks has become a moment-to-moment exercise in this series. This time, Mussina represented a one-man answer to whatever ails his 10-3 team.
The Orioles managed nine hits against White Sox starter Danny Darwin but only one run. Four of the hits came from center fielder Jerome Walton, who managed only 16 for all of 1996. The only run came from a player originally scheduled to watch the game from the bench.
Weather has turned manager Davey Johnson's lineup into a jumble. Three players were scratched just before Wednesday's batting practice with the fallout later seen in the outfield and at the plate against previously ineffective Doug Drabek. Last night Johnson planned to rest the same three players -- Eric Davis, Jeffrey Hammonds and Roberto Alomar -- until Alomar lobbied to get into the lineup. Johnson relented and received a game-turning performance.
Not that much was needed to turn the game offensively.
Facing another former National League retread, the Orioles threatened often but delivered rarely. They managed at least one hit in each of the first six innings and pushed four runners into scoring position only to be undone by a pair of double plays and a lack of timely hitting.
B. J. Surhoff doubled with one out in the second inning but was stranded at third when Chris Hoiles grounded to third with two outs.
Alomar scored against orders to give the Orioles their 1-0 lead in the third. After accepting a one-out walk, Alomar took second on Rafael Palmeiro's single. Cal Ripken followed with another hit to right field. Alomar, still limping with a sore left ankle, was told to stop by third-base coach Sam Perlozzo. Alomar ignored him. Running against Phillips, Alomar scored without a slide when Phillips unleashed a puny throw some 10 feet up the third base line.
What might have been a knockout inning dissolved when Surhoff struck out with runners at first and third. Surhoff has one RBI in 40 at-bats.
Walton was stranded at second in the fourth inning. The same fate befell Alomar in the fifth.
Mussina, meanwhile, pitched with the same steadiness that he brandished in his previous start, a seven-inning, three-hit effort against the Texas Rangers.
Able to score nine runs in four innings Wednesday, the White Sox reverted to their offensive stupor against Mussina's fastball-knuckle curve combination. They managed only three hits through seven innings while Mussina walked no one.
This was not a comfortable spot for Mussina. He struggled to a 2-2 record and 9.90 ERA against them last year. The last time he had faced them, last Sept. 12, he worked only 3 2/3 innings in an abortive attempt to win his 20th game. Mussina was working to even his career record against them. Mussina has a losing record against only three clubs.
No one has made life tougher for Mussina than Thomas. The Big Hurt had bruised Mussina for a lifetime .556 average entering the game. Thomas had homered six times in 36 at-bats against him.
Mussina emerged the victor this time. Trying to flail his way out of a slump, Thomas flied out to right field, flied to center and grounded to short in his first three at-bats. Though he carried a .277 average into the game, Thomas has yet to homer in 50 at-bats, a relative eternity for him.
The White Sox put only one runner into scoring position against Mussina through eight innings. Ozzie Guillen doubled with one out in the second when he lobbed a ball behind second base that Alomar couldn't reach and right fielder Pete Incaviglia ran by. The threat ended when Phillips and Ray Durham popped out.
A seventh-inning threat got nowhere when Albert Belle reached on a one-out single and was immediately doubled off on Harold Baines' liner to short.
Pub Date: 4/18/97