Mike Mussina was staring at a pitcher's worst nightmare. Runners on second and third, one out, fifth inning of the All-Star Game. First base was open, and Sammy Sosa was at the plate, which would make this a good time for Mussina to issue an intentional walk -- except that Mark McGwire was on deck.
So Mussina took a deep breath and pitched to Sosa. And he struck him out. Then, with first base still open, he pitched to McGwire. And he struck him out.
"He went right at me with fastballs," McGwire said. "I thought I hit them, but I didn't."
On a night in which the Baltimore Orioles were as well-represented as any 36-51 team could possibly expect to be, Mussina's takedown of the sport's top tag-team home run combo to preserve a three-run lead ranked as the highlight.
"I was thinking, `I'm going to end up giving up the lead because I have to face these guys with two runners on base,' " Mussina said. "But Sosa had never seen me before and that might have been an advantage. Having to face those two back-to-back, there aren't too many lineups where you have to face something like that."
But there were other pleasant Orioles moments within the American League's 4-1 victory over the National League at Fenway Park.
Cal Ripken, a perennial all-star, singled in a run in the first and reached base when he was hit by a pitch and scored in the fourth. Harold Baines singled in his only at-bat. B.J. Surhoff, though he went 0 for 2, experienced for the first time the thrill of an all-star game in his 13th season.
For some time now, fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards have gotten used to games being interrupted periodically for one Ripken milestone or another.
Tonight was Ripken's 17th all-star game appearance, which moved him past Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose into sixth place all-time. Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson and Ted Williams have made more all-star game appearances than Ripken.
The Orioles' Iron Man is also the all-star game's Iron Man. Tonight marked his 16th consecutive year in the starting lineup, extending his record.
His single, a sharp liner to right field off National League starter Curt Schilling of the Philadelphia Phillies, was his 12th hit in all-star competition, moving him past Robinson and Steve Garvey and into a tie with Kaline for eighth place all-time. Ripken, the 1991 All-Star Game most valuable player, has a career .255 average with one homer and seven RBI in all-star competition.
"It's a great feeling to perform in this kind of environment. It's the best of the best," Ripken said. "Some people think it's an exhibition-type environment. But I think that's the furthest from the truth. When the game starts, with the caliber and quality of these players, they want to win. So I felt good about that hit today."
Ripken's day included some pregame schmoozing with some of the nominees for Major League Baseball's all-century team, for which Ripken was also nominated.
"It's cool to me," Ripken said, "that the language of baseball transcends generations."
Surhoff entered in the top of the fourth and grounded out against Jose Lima and again against Billy Wagner. Before tonight, only Oakland's Tony Phillips among active players had more career hits than Surhoff without having been selected to an all-star game.
Baines, 40, became the oldest player to appear in an all-star game since Ozzie Smith played at 41 in 1996. Baines, who was added to the American League on Sunday as a late substitution for injured Tampa Bay designated hitter Jose Canseco, singled up the middle off Braves pitcher Kevin Millwood in the sixth inning.
"I was happy just to be here," Baines said, "but it was satisfying to get a hit."
Orioles Note: Orioles General Manager Frank Wren spent a lot of the afternoon talking to Cleveland Indians GM John Hart. The Indians want to add a starting pitcher, and the two GMs discussed Juan Guzman and Scott Erickson. The Indians prefer Guzman, who will be a free agent after the season, to Erickson, who has 4 1/2 years remaining on his contract.