The Orioles' offense has gone on such a roll, even Mike Mussina couldn't stop it.
Not accustomed to being showered with runs, Mussina was drenched with more than sweat yesterday. The Orioles bashed three home runs, including two in the seventh inning, when they broke open a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies before 47,540 inside a brick oven that doubled as Camden Yards.
The Orioles(26-34) took two of three from the Phillies, winning the last two games. They hadn't won a series since sweeping Seattle at homeMay 23-25, and hadn't strung together two consecutive victories sinceMay 29-30 against Tampa Bay.
They took special care of Mussina(4-6), who has three wins and a no-decision in his pastfour starts. The club had scored 39 runs in his 13 outings, an average of three per game. Never this season had he received more thanfive, contributing to the worst start of his career. Before yesterday, Mussina was burdened with the fifth-worst run support in the American League.
But the offensive fog that hung over the team during its 10-game road trip is beginning to lift. The Orioles scored11 runs Saturday and collected12 hits yesterday for the second straight game. Will Clark hit his first home run since July 24 after just missing on a handful of swings the past week. Mike Bordick and Jeff Conine also went deep, and Brady Anderson singled twice and doubled, giving him 13 multi-hit games in his past 23 starts.
Asked if it felt good to receive so much support, Mussina grinned before stating the obvious. "Well, yeah, it feels great," he said. "We got the big hits when we needed them, and then scoring late, that was big. They really hadn't been taken out of the game until we got those three runs.
"I felt pretty good today. I had a good fastball. I didn't necessarily throw it where I wanted to all the time, but I got some fly balls with it and some pop-ups. That was probably my best pitch. And being able to get my curveball over and get my slider over helped, too. All in all, it was a pretty decent day."
Clark rushed to Mussina's defense in the eighth inning after first base umpire C. B. Bucknor ruled Tom Prince had checked his swing on a 1-2 pitch, negating an apparent strikeout. Clark stood nose-to-nose with Bucknor before manager Mike Hargrove stepped between them. Prince doubled down the left-field line, leading to the Phillies' second run and causing Clark to glare in Bucknor's direction.
"You want to limit Moose's pitches as much as possible so he can get a complete game," Clark said.
Working with backup catcher Greg Myers for the first time, Mussina held the Phillies tofive hits in eight innings, walking one and striking outsix. He served up a home run to Rob Ducey in the second inning, the16th he's allowed this season. After a one-out double by Scott Rolen in the fourth, Mussina didn't allow another hit until Kevin Jordan singled to lead off the eighth.
For Hargrove, what he saw from Mussina simply was more of the same. The record never has been a true indication of how well the staff's ace has pitched.
"His ERA was under 4[3.86] coming into the game," Hargrove said. "This was just a continuation of him throwing well, and he got some runs to work with today."
Both teams had to contend with a stifling heat. The game-time temperature was 98 degrees. On the field, the temperature hovered around 102. On the warning track, it rose to 130.
"That's why I stayed off it," Anderson said.
He already had heated up before leaving the clubhouse. Anderson is batting .333 (31-for-93) in his past 24 games, raising his average from .250 to.286. His double in the first inning was his 1,456th hit with the Orioles, moving him past Ken Singleton into fifth place all time.
Albert Belle doubled in the fifth inning to push the Orioles' lead to 4-1 and extend his hitting streak to 13 games. During that span, he's batting.440 (22-for-50).
Conine had two more hits yesterday, raising his average to.313 and his home run total toseven. He also homered onFriday and is batting .356 (16-for-45) in his past 14 games.
Hargrove put him at third base yesterday to rest Cal Ripken, But he indicated after the game that more at-bats could come as the DH while Harold Baines remains in the clutches of a slump that has lowered his average to.222.
"I want to give Harold enough time to see if he can work his way out of what he's going through, and I think he will. But Conine certainly may force my hand in that matter. It's a good problem to have," Hargrove said.
Clark broke a 1-1 tie in the second inning with his two-run blast off Andy Ashby. Clark has been working with hitting coach Terry Crowley for about a week, making some changes that he prefers to keep private.
"Terry, being a left-handed hitter, has some very, very good theories," Clark said. "His career was based on one at-bat at a time. To make adjustments like that, that's exactly how I'm doing it. ... I'm starting to get a little more comfortable, starting to feel like it's coming around."
"Will, the last couple days, has been swinging the bat better," Hargrove said. "It was just a matter of time before Will got untracked. It's just taken a little longer than we all would have imagined. But he'll be OK."
So will Mussina as long as the Orioles continue to include him in their offensive plans.