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Saturday, May 31, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mussina Near Perfect For Oriole -- Pitcher Keeps Bases Empty Until Alomar's One-Out Single In Ninth

AP

BALTIMORE - As Mike Mussina walked to the mound in the ninth inning to a standing ovation, he couldn't quite believe he was on the brink of pitching a perfect game.

"The whole game I was really amazed that I was in that situation," he said. "I hadn't been in that situation in 12 or 15 years. It was kind of strange. Every time I went out there they made three outs in a row."

Until the ninth inning.

Sandy Alomar Jr.'s one-out single ended Mussina's bid for the 13th perfect game in modern major-league history. The right-hander settled for a one-hitter as the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Cleveland Indians 3-0 last night.

Cleveland had not come close to a hit off Mussina (7-1) until Alomar lined a 1-1 pitch to left field with one out in the ninth. Mussina struck out the final two batters.

"I was really surprised that it lasted as long as it did," Mussina said. "So you give up a hit, it's a one-hitter, and you have something to work for the next time."

Mussina struck out 10 and walked none in his second career one-hitter.

"He had everything going," Alomar said. "He was perfect, and he had a perfect night."

Almost.

"Alomar has given me problems before," Mussina said. "He's a perennial all-star. I was just happy I got him out the times before that."

Alomar struck out in his first two at-bats.

Mussina went to three balls on two batters in each of the first two innings but did not let the count reach three balls again until Tony Fernandez grounded out on a 3-1 count to open the ninth.

"It got into the fifth inning, and I thought, `You know, I don't think they've had anybody on base yet. I don't remember pitching from the stretch,' " Mussina said. "Before you know it, everybody is out there cheering every pitch, and I'm just trying to get three more outs."

Noteworthy

-- Roberto Alomar, Sandy's brother, had three hits for the Orioles. . . . Baltimore's Cal Ripken went 0 for 3 with a run batted in on the 15th anniversary of the start of his record consecutive-games streak, which reached 2,365. . . . Third-base coach Jeff Newman managed the Indians in the absence of Mike Hargrove, who attended his daughter's high-school graduation.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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