As difficult as it may be, B.J. Surhoff may soon have to accept the fact that he is an all-star player putting up all-star numbers and having an all-star season for the Baltimore Orioles.
Few players are capable of dominating a game the way Surhoff did in the Orioles' 9-1 victory over the New York Yankees tonight in front of 29,934 sweltering fans. The win gave the Orioles (34-47) a split in this four-game series.
Surhoff is a glass-half-empty sort of guy. Point out that he has hit safely in 48 of his last 52 games, and he will point out that someone once hit in 56 straight. Mention that his numbers warrant selection for next week's All-Star Game, and he will name a half-dozen other American League outfielders who are having great years.
But on a night in which Cal Ripken was elected to his 17th consecutive all-star team -- celebrating with a double and a homer -- and flu-ridden pitcher Mike Mussina made his pitch for all-star selection with his 10th victory of the half-season, Surhoff put on another eye-opening display of all-around ability in front of Yankees Manager Joe Torre, who will select and announce the American League all-star reserves in two days.
"He's a one-man gang," Torre said tonight. "I have a strong feeling I'll see him again next week."
Surhoff robbed Yankees designated hitter Chili Davis of a two-run extra-base hit with a running, lunging catch near the wall with two outs in the sixth. He also went 3 for 5 with a three-run homer and four RBI. But, typically, Surhoff was kicking himself for his two outs, in which he stranded four runners on base.
"I left a lot of guys out there," he said.
In the four games here, Surhoff went 7 for 16 (.438) with 11 RBI, taking sole possession of the league lead in hits (118) and rais ing his batting average to .342. With 20 homers and 69 RBI, he is two homers and three RBI shy of his career highs.
A month shy of his 35th birthday, Surhoff, a career .277 hitter before this year, seems to have reincarnated himself as Carl Yastrzemski.
"It is unfortunate we're not playing better," Mussina said, "because he's putting up MVP numbers."
Mussina (10-4) brought a career 3-8 record against the Yankees and a bad case of the flu into tonight's game, and he almost passed out during pregame warmups. With the temperature at 100 degrees, Manager Ray Miller kept a close eye on him, pulling him with one out in the sixth after only 89 pitches.
That the Orioles hid Mussina's condition played a part in the game, since the Yankees, thinking Mussina would not likely give up many more runs, chose to bring their infield in with one out in the second, a runner on third base and the score tied at 1. Charles Johnson singled through the drawn-in infield to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Mussina avoided throwing fastballs and visited the air-conditioned clubhouse between innings. He couldn't keep the Yankees off the bases, but he made clutch pitches when he had to, such as the two that coaxed double-play grounders from Derek Jeter in the third and Bernie Williams in the fourth -- both coming after Mussina fell behind in the count 2-0.
"To get both of those guys to do that in one game," Mussina said, "is rare."
Miller finally yanked Mussina after he allowed consecutive one-out singles to Paul O'Neill and Williams in the sixth, with Tino Martinez due up.
"He was visibly weakened and he had white spots all over his face," Miller said. "I said, `You've been a hero long enough. Give me the ball.' "
What came next was the game's crucial sequence. After Miller brought in left-hander Doug Johns to face left-handed batter Martinez with two on and one out, and Martinez flied out to right, Miller left Johns in to face the switch-hitting Davis, despite Davis's career .444 average (8 for 18) against Johns.
"That was the one at-bat I was worried about," Miller said. "It wasn't a good matchup."
After fouling off several pitches -- including one that barely missed being a three-run homer down the right field line -- Davis clubbed a 2-2 pitch deep to left. Surhoff appeared to have no chance of catching the ball, but sprinted back, reached up and gloved it two steps before crashing into the wall.
Surhoff, showing he can win games with his mind as well as his bat and glove, had taken two steps back just before Davis came to the plate.
"I didn't want him to hit anything over my head," Surhoff said. "I ran to where I thought the ball was going, put my glove up, and thankfully it went in."
Orioles Notes: As the Orioles returned home, Miller offered words of support for pitching coach Bruce Kison, whom Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has discussed firing, according to a team source.
"Bruce has lots of assets," Miller said. "He doesn't miss anything. He lives and dies with every at-bat. He's got notes on every situation. . . . [Giving instruction] is a lot easier with younger guys because they're more receptive. Guys who are older and have been around awhile, they don't want to change anything, or they're the last ones to realize they're not doing well." . . .
Miller said he expects first baseman Will Clark to join the team Tuesday night in Baltimore after an MRI exam on Clark's swollen left knee showed no major damage. Clark has missed the last three games.
Data: Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays, today and Wednesday at 7:35 p.m., Thursday at 3:05 p.m.
Tickets remaining: Today, 10,500; Wednesday, 9,500; Thursday, 6,500.
TV: WJZ (today); HTS (Wednesday and Thursday).
Radio: WTOP-1500, WBAL-1090, WTOP-FM-107.7, WMJS-FM 92.7.
Records: Orioles 34-47; Blue Jays 42-42.
Pitchers: Today -- Orioles RHP Scott Erickson (3-8, 6.51) vs. LHP David Wells (8-6, 5.58); Wednesday -- Orioles RHP Jason Johnson (1-3, 6.39) vs. RHP Joey Hamilton (1-5, 8.02); Thursday -- Orioles RHP Sidney Ponson (7-5, 3.69) vs. RHP Kelvim Escobar (7-6, 5.93).