Orioles' Groom is rarely at a loss

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK - Left-handed middle reliever Buddy Groom recently passed the one-year anniversary of his last loss, a span that covered 67 appearances.

Last night at Yankee Stadium, however, Groom was finally tagged with a loss in a 7-4 defeat to the New York Yankees.

Before last night, Groom, one of the Orioles' most marketable players, hadn't tasted defeat since May 31, 2000 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Groom could remember the circumstances of the loss - a two-run home run surrendered to Devil Rays first baseman Fred McGriff in a 4-3 loss, but he was unaware of his remarkable personal streak.

"I really had no idea. I don't even look at that stuff," Groom said. "Other than how many runs I've given up, I don't know what my stats are unless somebody shows me. I just try to go out there when I'm called on to get guys out. If I don't get them out, then I work on the next night."

Groom said he attaches most significance to his success stranding inherited runners. Before last night, Groom had stranded 12 of 22 and retired 16 of 21 first batters faced.

"The inherited runners part is big for me. I do take pride in that. When I go out there, if I'm going out with guys on base, I try to shut down the inherited runners," Groom said.

Mussina gets Bronx cheer

Former Orioles ace Mike Mussina received little slack after being ripped by his old team for six earned runs in five innings in a 10-3 loss Tuesday night.

The Gotham tabloids made an issue of everything from Mussina's occasional truculence with the media to manager Joe Torre's decision to give him an extra day's rest, thus allowing him to miss a third matchup against Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez on Monday. A New York Post headline proclaimed, "Mike's For The Birds" while the Daily News weighed in with a column headlined "Is he a man or Moose?"

The Daily News column attributed quotes to Orioles manager Mike Hargrove that appeared to question Mussina's stomach for a big-game matchup.

"All I know is that when Mike was with us he'd squawk like hell about getting an extra day's rest. That's why I had to laugh when I read he was being skipped over Pedro to pitch against us. I thought you paid a guy that kind of money to pitch the big games."

Hargrove was also quoted in the column as saying: "Look, I know what Joe was doing. He saw this as a way to give Mussina an easier situation and if he's somehow able to steal the Pedro game, so be it. I'd probably do the same thing."

Hargrove confirmed making such comments but did not believe they were in the context of an interview.

More, not less

Melvin Mora continues a lengthy salvage of his offensive numbers.

Mora entered last night riding a six-game hitting streak that has helped him hit .337 over his past 32 games, including .373 (25-for-67) over his past 20 games. Mora was also 10-for-23 with four doubles on the road trip, upping his average to .275.

Like with his early-season slump, explanations are vague.

"I think maybe he's a little more comfortable with the strike zone," theorized hitting coach Terry Crowley, who has advanced the notion that this season's more liberal strike especially wreaked havoc with less experienced - and less renowned - players.

"Like a lot of guys, I think Melvin struggled early with the combination of a bigger strike zone and a run of tough pitchers," said Crowley.

Around the horn

Brady Anderson was not in last night's lineup against Yankees left-handed starter Ted Lilly. Anderson has four consecutive games with at least one hit and has hit in 10 of his past 11 and 12 of his past 15 games in which he has received an at-bat. During the past 11 games, Anderson is batting .333 (14-for-42) to raise his average to .213. He has more walks (26) than strikeouts (24) and has raised his on-base percentage to .310. Anderson has contradicted a career tendency by hitting .281 against left-handed pitching compared to .192 vs. right-handers. ... Bowie's John Stephens was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week after throwing a complete-game, 7-hit shutout at Harrisburg last Saturday. Stephens is 5-1 with a league-leading 1.59 ERA.

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