TORONTO — TORONTO -- Thoroughly stuffed by an incumbent Cy Young Award winner, the Orioles said they only lost to a better pitcher last night. They said it without conviction.
They might still own the best record (46-22) in the major leagues, but the Orioles no longer can claim superiority. In a 3-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and starting pitcher Pat Hentgen (8-3), they looked like the sum of their many injuries.
"Whenever your guy pitches bad, they say you look flat. Whenever the other guy pitches a good game, it looks like you can't hit," manager Davey Johnson said.
The Orioles looked guilty on both counts. Shut out once in their first 66 games, they were held scoreless for a second straight game. Continuing what Montreal's Carlos Perez started Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards, a Blue Jays team that wins by pitching and little else blanked the Orioles last night.
The Orioles haven't scored since Tony Tarasco's bases-empty homer in the eighth inning of Tuesday's win over the Expos. It is the first time the Orioles have suffered consecutive shutouts since Sept. 17-18, 1993, against the Milwaukee Brewers. The statistic represents one of the few times this season they have been compared to an ordinary club.
Whining publicly for outside help would only show weakness. Instead, the Orioles let their play speak for them, and last night's statement came out like a mumble.
Looking for positives was good only for eye strain.
Within the context of a bruised team, none of this is good. Their record now seems a precarious buffer more than a springboard to a romp. Even a quality start by Mike Mussina (8-2) was covered with trouble. Mussina, who tied a career high with six walks, lost for the first time since April 6, his first start this season.
Roberto Alomar was smacked on the left hand by an eighth-inning pitch. He continued but will be re-evaluated today.
"He was scared by it," Johnson said. "I was, too."
Brady Anderson talked his way into the outfield before the game only to aggravate an in
flamed right patella with a halting catch to end the eighth. He likely will serve as designated hitter for the rest of the series rather than risk further injury on the SkyDome artificial turf.
Asked if he thought help was needed, Anderson said, "If Pat [Gillick] and Kevin [Malone] ask, I'll give them my opinion. Then I'll give it to you."
But it appears the resourceful Orioles finally are running out of options with Eric Davis probably out for the season after colon cancer surgery, Chris Hoiles laid up possibly five more weeks with a knee injury and Pete Incaviglia in a 2-for-29 slump.
In addition to their scoreless drought, the Orioles have gone 17 innings without an extra-base hit. Against Hentgen, they produced six singles, three by the last two spots in the order. Only two runners reached scoring position, none reached third.
Afterward general manager Gillick and assistant GM Malone spent about 10 minutes in a closed-door meeting with Johnson. Gillick emerged to say nothing is necessarily imminent to address a lineup suddenly gone silent.
The common explanation holds that Hentgen and Perez are quality pitchers. Of course, so is today's opposing starter, Roger Clemens, who will attempt to leave the Orioles with their first three-game losing streak this season.
And, so were the likes of Randy Johnson, Charles Nagy and Andy Pettitte, whom the Orioles handled on the way to the best start in baseball.
"A couple of years ago, I tried to play general manager," Mussina said when asked if the Orioles need roster help. "I don't do that anymore. Whether we get somebody or not, we still have to get through it. Some things are out of our control. This is one of them."
Hentgen needed only 107 pitches to register his third consecutive complete game, equaling the Orioles' output for the season.
"All you have to do is look at their lineup," said Hentgen, who ran his string of scoreless innings to 22. "Mel [Queen, pitching coach] and I went over it and analyzed it quite thoroughly. These guys can beat you in so many ways."
Right now, they'd settle for one.
"Pat Hentgen is a real, real good pitcher," Alomar said. "When he gets two or three runs early, he gets even better."
Trailing by a run, Lenny Webster and Mike Bordick managed back-to-back singles to begin the third inning. Anderson flied out and Alomar followed with a inning-ending double-play grounder to short.
The at-bat was just what the SkyDome crowd was waiting for, as last night marked Alomar's first game in Toronto since the Sept. 27 spitting incident involving umpire John Hirschbeck.
The Orioles managed a two-out threat in the seventh when Tony Tarasco walked to represent the tying run, but Webster grounded out to end the inning.
"Obviously you've got to have some luck to get the shutouts -- balls being hit right at people," said Hentgen, who struck out four and walked one for his AL-leading sixth complete game. "I certainly got that tonight. The defense was superb."
For Mussina, whose eight-game winning streak vanished, things kept threatening to get worse. He needed a season-high 131 pitches and two double-play balls to wade through 6 2/3 innings against a team hitting .245. Only guile prevented the Blue Jays from doing more with 16 base runners.
"It was pretty much a struggle," Mussina said. "Once in a while you go out there and it's like you've never been out there before. I've been through it. Everybody goes through it. Hitters go through it."
Mussina had not walked more than two hitters in 14 previous starts. Last night he walked three in the first two innings. The Blue Jays led 1-0 before their first out. Otis Nixon walked and then scored on Orlando Merced's double to the center-field wall.
Merced stalked Mussina again in the third inning as he again doubled through an outfield that appeared shifted against Mussina's pitch selection. Joe Carter, whom the Orioles would like to discuss for trade, singled to score Merced for a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Jays finished Mussina -- and their scoring -- in the seventh inning when Tarasco flubbed Alex Gonzalez's single, allowing Carlos Delgado to score even after hesitating at third.
The unearned run did nothing to tarnish Mussina's ERA but only added another unsightly layer to a game suggesting bad things.
Orioles today Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Site: SkyDome, Toronto
Time: 4: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Scott Erickson (9-2, 3.51) vs. Blue Jays' Roger Clemens (11-2, 2.03)
Pub Date: 6/21/97
Double-0 Orioles spy no runs, 3-0; Jays' Hentgen throws 6-hitter to hand O's 2nd shutout in a row; Mussina loses 1st since April; Anderson aggravates leg as injuries take toll