Mike Mussina had one of those nights that remind the Baltimore Orioles how special he is. He blew away James Mouton with an unhittable fastball to lead off the game, used three different pitches to strike out the side in the second and got two more strikeouts on 95-mph fastballs in the third.
Mussina got the Orioles cranked up on a night when they pounded five Montreal Expos pitchers for 17 hits and rolled to a 9-4 victory in front of 41,929 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Orioles ran their winning streak to four games, but did it without third baseman Cal Ripken, who injured his right wrist on Thursday. X-rays of the wrist have been inconclusive, but the Orioles are uncertain enough of Ripken's status that Ryan Minor was recalled from Class AAA Rochester and will be in the lineup Saturday. The Orioles made several other roster moves, including trading pitcher Rocky Coppinger to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named.
Long before the Orioles (38-51) started to pound the Expos (33-53), Mussina already had control of the game. In running his record to 12-4, he allowed four hits and one run and struck out 10 in seven efficient innings.
"It was just a good solid game," he said. "I've been throwing the ball pretty well the last couple of starts. I've got a couple of pitches going, and I'm able to mix it up."
He had a 9-1 lead when he left and then watched as the bullpen that has already blown three leads for him this season almost let the Expos back in the game.
"That was a great effort by Mike," Manager Ray Miller said. "About 48 hours after striking out [Sammy] Sosa and [Mark] McGwire in the All-Star Game, he goes out and pitches great again.
"I'm really proud of this club. We came out and created some things. We had big hits by everybody."
Mussina could afford to take the final two innings off because the Orioles scored in five of the first six innings. Designated hitter Harold Baines had three singles and his 20th home run. B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick had three hits apiece, and eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.
Mussina needed to be almost perfect early in the game because the Orioles left the bases loaded in the second inning and had a runner thrown out at the plate in the third. They still took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning, then they got some breathing room against Expos starter Dan Smith (1-4).
Catcher Charles Johnson walked to lead off the inning and went to second on a grounder by Jeff Reboulet, who was subbing at third for Ripken. Brady Anderson struck out, but Bordick got Johnson home with a triple into right field. Surhoff singled home Bordick to make it 4-0.
Mussina allowed his run on Mike Mordecai's single in the fifth, but the Orioles broke it open with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Reboulet led off with a single and scored when Anderson scorched a double off the right field wall.
Bordick singled home Anderson, and Surhoff cleared the bases with his 21st home run of the season. Surhoff is just one away from his career high set last season.
Miller began taking his starters out in the sixth and had three of them -- and Mussina -- on the bench when the Expos made a run at getting back in the game. They scored three times off reliever Scott Kamieniecki to make it 9-4 in the eighth, but Arthur Rhodes ended it by getting the Expos in the ninth.
With his sixth-inning single, Baines passed Hal McRae to become baseball's all-time leader in hits for a designated hitter with 1,556. The home run tied him with Don Baylor for first place on the all-time list for DHs, with 219.
"What can you say about Harold?" Miller said. "I didn't see him for the first hour this afternoon, and I knew where he was -- in there watching videotape, getting ready."
Baines typically shrugged off the compliments, saying: "Once the season ends I can look back and see I passed two great players. Right now, I'm just thinking of helping us win games."
CAPTION: Mike Mussina has plenty to kick up his heels about. He struck out 10, walked one and yielded four hits in seven innings and improved his record to 12-4.