At a different time, under different circumstances, Mike Mussina might have been a little miffed at the shaky defense and lack of run support his teammates gave him in a 2-1 loss to the Oakland A's on Friday night, when Mussina pitched his first complete game of the season, but was outdueled by Tom Candiotti and the A's bullpen.

But Mussina knows better. One large reason for his formidable season record, which fell to 7-2 with Friday night's loss, is the hefty run support he has been receiving -- 8.63 runs per nine innings entering Friday night, third highest in the American League.

"You can pitch well and lose," Mussina said. "And you can pitch mediocre-to-bad and win sometimes. . . . Most nights, what I did tonight would be good enough. On this night, it wasn't."

Taking a step back to look at where he stands 11 starts into the season, Mussina, said he was satisfied with his season to date. He has gotten progressively better, going at least seven innings in each of his past four starts (and six of his last seven). However, Friday night's loss prevented him from matching the best start of his career (8-1 in 1997).

"He's getting better each time out," Manager Ray Miller said. "And he's got a good record."

Mussina's 4.21 ERA is high by his standards, but that is largely because of a poor outing at Tampa Bay on April 21, when he gave up 10 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, arguably the worst start of his career.

"Take away that game," Mussina said, "and my ERA is about a 3.00 [actually, 3.13]. So my record is pretty accurate."

On Friday night, Mussina gave up only two runs, and one was tainted by some lackluster outfield defense. With a runner on first in the first inning, A's right fielder Matt Stairs launched a line drive over the head of second baseman Delino DeShields. It rolled all the way to the wall when center fielder Brady Anderson and right fielder Albert Belle failed to cut it off, allowing the run to score.

"I was shocked that ball went all the way to the wall," Miller said. "But it was smoked. I think everyone was shocked it got through. Both [Anderson and Belle] took a straight-across route and the ball shot through."

The A's second run scored in the sixth on Olmedo Saenz's RBI single up the middle, one pitch after a pop foul drifted just out of reach of first baseman Jeff Conine.

"That's just the way the game is played," Mussina said. "A lot of small things went their way."

Orioles Notes: Miller rested catcher Charles Johnson and left fielder B.J. Surhoff tonight, giving rookie catcher Tommy Davis his first career start and playing Jeff Conine in left. Johnson and Surhoff were available to pinch hit.

Johnson had not had a day off since May 2. Miller picked tonight to rest Johnson in part because Davis, who is filling in for the injured Lenny Webster (ankle sprain), caught Jason Johnson, tonight's starter, at Class AAA Rochester. Davis collected his first major league hit with a sixth-inning single off starter Gil Heredia.

Surhoff played in all 162 games (153 starts) last season, and had started every game this season, giving him a consecutive games-played streak of 209. At one point last week, he led the league in hits and had a 15-game hitting streak, but is hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

"I've got to [rest Surhoff] sooner or later, and I noticed he was kind of dragging last night," Miller said. "He battles his tail off every night, and I wanted to get him a day off."

Conine has been used primarily as a first baseman this season, but he made 50 appearances in left field last season for Kansas City.

CAPTION: The Orioles' Mike Bordick makes the pivot after forcing out Athletics' Miguel Tejada, and before doubling up Jason Giambi, Friday night in Oakland. Baltimore fell to 2-2 on its West Coast trip.