Orioles' Mussina mastered the beasts
Posted: Wednesday July 14, 1999 10:23 AM
By Bryan Boyle, CNN/SI
BOSTON -- Mike Mussina jumped into the frying pan, and out of it with fire.
The Orioles' ace took over to start the fifth inning in the American League's 4-1 victory over the National League in the 70th All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. But a closer look reveals that it took a sequence of perfect fastballs to finish his only inning of work without disaster.
Mussina took over a 4-1 AL lead, replacing David Cone and opening the inning by walking Diamondbacks second baseman Jay Bell on a 3-1 pitch. Next up was Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, whose grounder to second took a tricky hop on Roberto Alomar.
Alomar, who won his seventh Gold Glove award in 1998 for Baltimore, handled the play roughly. He may have been dwelling on his second-inning error, or he may have been missing everyday teammate Omar Vizquel at shortstop. Nevertheless, Alomar got the ball slowly to Derek Jeter, whose sharp throw to first couldn't beat Larkin.
Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez followed with an opposite-field double down the third-base line, and the situation for Mussina quickly became entirely undesirable: runners on second and third, one out, Sammy Sosa at the bat, Mark McGwire in the on-deck circle.
On a steady diet of fastballs, Mussina got Sosa -- who hit only one homer in Monday's Home Run Derby and went 0-for-3 on Tuesday -- to strike out looking. Then Mussina sent McGwire down on strikes with a fastball hovering around 90 mph.
It was the most serious threat, and the last threat, that the NL put together all night against an AL staff that struck out a dozen.
"The three guys, they were all pitching great: [David] Cone, Mussina and Pedro [Martinez]," said Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "That's why they're here, because they're All-Stars."
Yielding to Jose Rosado in the sixth, Mussina finished his fifth All-Star appearance with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts over one inning. Thirteen of his 21 pitches were strikes, six of the strikes helping to whiff the two sluggers who both shattered Roger Maris' single-season record for home runs last season.
McGwire, who cracked a Home Run Derby-record 13 homers in the first round Monday, was asked if he was perhaps overeager against Mussina to tie the game with one swing of the bat.
"I get my two strikeouts every All-Star Game I get up," said McGwire. "When you see the best of the best, you know he's going to go right at you with nasty stuff. And facing Pedro and Coney, and Mussina went right at me with a fastball. And I thought I hit him, but I guess I didn't."
"Just trying to hit the ball," McGwire added defensively. "I don't swing for fences, it just happens."
Larry Walker, who went 0-for-2, didn't take his strikeout -- one of 22 total strikeouts in the game -- as seriously.
"I was in awe, looking at the sign that said Fenway Park and the big wall in left field," said Walker, who took with him a pocketful of Fenway dirt. "I struck out at Fenway and I'm pretty proud of it."Mussina should be proud, too. He tamed three beasts -- Big Mac, Slammin' Sammy and the Green Monster -- and escaped unscathed.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.