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Shot off knee could foul up the rest of Mora's season


All it took was a glance in Melvin Mora's direction yesterday to know how much pain radiated through his left knee, and how his day-to-day status could extend much further.

At least as far as the schedule will allow.

The Orioles have nine games remaining after yesterday's doubleheader with the Oakland Athletics. How many of those will include Mora?

Judging by the way he was limping yesterday, not many.

Mora fouled a pitch off the inside of his knee during the second inning of Tuesday's 7-4 loss. He collapsed at home plate and stayed down until lifted up and carried off the field.

X-rays taken at Camden Yards were negative, with Mora suffering a deep bruise.

"He didn't break anything, but he hit that thing square," said manager Mike Hargrove. "You foul a ball off your foot or leg and it hurts."

Mora missed seven games earlier this month with a strained hamstring. Hargrove's not certain how long his lineup will be without a player whose .292 average is needed.

"It depends how quickly he gets the swelling down," Hargrove said. "It could be a week, but if it's a week, the season's over."

Mora has started 43 games at shortstop since being acquired from the New York Mets in the Mike Bordick trade. He was replaced by Mark Lewis in Game 1 yesterday, and Jesus Garcia in the nightcap.

Mussina pushed back 2 days

Mike Mussina's start in Boston has been pushed back to Sunday because of a strained right groin muscle. He had been scheduled to pitch tomorrow's series opener, but Sidney Ponson will oppose Ramon Martinez.

Mussina was forced to leave his last start after 4 2/3 innings because of the injury that has prevented him from throwing in the bullpen between appearances. He has two starts remaining this season.

Muddy memories

The Orioles were greeted yesterday by a game-time temperature of 88 degrees. There wasn't a cloud in sight. The sky was clear. So was the upper deck.

The weather was perfect for baseball, unlike the steady showers that accompanied Tuesday's loss and turned the basepaths into oatmeal.

B. J. Ryan, unable to get comfortable on a sloppy mound, issued three bases-loaded walks on 13 pitches. He had given up one walk in his last nine appearances, back on Sept. 3. Yesterday, he issued two in two scoreless innings, not allowing a hit and striking out two.

"I haven't pitched in something like that since maybe rookie ball, with the mound slippery like that. But everybody else pitched in the same weather," he said. "It gets caught in your head that you've slipped a couple times and you try to do something different and it just snowballs."

Starter Jay Spurgeon walked six in five-plus innings, but left with a 3-2 lead.

"The footing was real bad, the push-off and the landing," Spurgeon said. "The ball was constantly wet. Even when the umpire threw it back to you, it was traveling through the rain and got a little moisture on it. I'd try to wipe my hand on my pants, but they were wet from standing in the rain. There really wasn't a dry spot out there."

Quirky breakout

As if Jerry Hairston needed any more reminders of how quirky this game can be, he received three of them on Tuesday.

Mired in a 1-for-28 slump, Hairston collected a double and two singles within the first five innings. He didn't necessarily regard them as quality at-bats, however.

"Ironically, I didn't hit the ball as well as I did the past two weeks and I get three hits," he said. "That's just how baseball is. It's crazy. But any time you get some hits it feels great."

Hairston's average had dipped to .225 in 129 at-bats before breaking out on Tuesday.

"I'm not worried about it," he said before going 2-for-8 in yesterday's doubleheader. "If I was striking out a lot and and getting overmatched, I'd be worried. But I'm hitting the ball hard and I'm hitting it where they're pitching me. Outside, I go the other way. Inside, I turn on it. That's what I try to do."

Hubbard gets rare start

Trenidad Hubbard walked through the back entrance yesterday and didn't bother to check the lineup card outside Hargrove's office. There's usually no reason to take a peek, though he'll still glance at it when heading to the field.

Someone had to inform Hubbard that he would be starting for only the third time since being acquired from the Atlanta Braves on July 31 - and the first time since Aug. 13 in Kansas City.

"Those guys have a new teammate out there," he said.

Hubbard hit the ball hard his first two trips, lining to left and grounding into a double play. He finished 0-for-3, leaving his average at .182 in 22 at-bats.

"It's been tough," he said of rarely playing. "I appreciate the start, though."

His former club continues to lead the National League East, which hasn't gone unnoticed.

"Watching them, sometimes I visualize myself in the dugout still," he said. "It's bittersweet. I could be in the middle of the hunt for the crown."


"When you get a fat check in December from the playoff share, it'll be sweet," he said.

A's doubly perplexed

The A's weren't thrilled about playing a day-night doubleheader yesterday because it disrupted their rotation for an important four-game series against Seattle that begins tonight.

Two long rain delays caused Tuesday's Game 1 to end at 10:36 p.m., which would have extended the nightcap well past midnight, but Oakland wanted to play on.

"Obviously the field was playable or we wouldn't have continued the first game. Everyone was chomping at the bit," said manager Art Howe.

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