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Yankees 4 @ Orioles 1

Thursday April 4, 2002

Mussina W1-0 | 7IP | 4H | 0ER | 1BB | 3K | 0.00ERA

BALTIMORE (AP) -- For three innings, the Baltimore Orioles thought they had a decent chance to beat Mike Mussina.

Then Robin Ventura hit a three-run homer, and the Orioles' hopes dropped as sharply as a Mussina curveball.

Mussina pitched seven shutout innings and Ventura delivered his second straight go-ahead homer as the New York Yankees beat Baltimore 4-1 Thursday night.

Rookie Nick Johnson also homered for the Yankees, who won twice at Camden Yards after losing the season opener.

"To come back and win the last two and win the series is important," Mussina said. "We have a chance to go home and see if we can keep the momentum going."

Ventura, obtained in a December trade with the New York Mets, hit an 0-2 pitch from Sidney Ponson (0-1) over the center field wall to put the Yankees up 3-0 in the fourth.

The shot deflated the Orioles, who knew it would be extremely difficult to make up the deficit against a pitcher of Mussina's caliber.

"That's the first time all year I sensed a letdown," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "We didn't quit, but the energy level dropped a little bit."

Ventura's homer proved to be more than enough offense for Mussina (1-0), who improved to 4-1 against his former team. The right-hander allowed four hits, struck out three and walked one.

"You're always happy when you can throw this way this early in the season, especially when it's as chilly as it was out there," Mussina said.

Mike Stanton pitched the eighth. Jay Tessmer started the ninth, but left after a pair of walks.

Mariano Rivera gave up an RBI single to Melvin Mora before getting the last two outs for his second save.

The Orioles threatened early against Mussina but came away empty. After getting Mike Bordick to foul out with two outs and the bases loaded in the second, Mussina retired David Segui and Jeff Conine with a runner on third in the third inning.

"It's tough to score on Moose. He gave us a couple of opportunities but we couldn't take advantage," Bordick said. "He constantly mixed up his pitches, and threw all of them for strikes. Moose was right on top of his game. ... He's just a great pitcher."

New York pounced on Ponson in the fourth. Jason Giambi led off with a single and Jorge Posada hit a two-out single before Ventura followed with his 250th career homer.

"I'm looking for anything close, really," Ventura said. "He left it a little bit more over the plate than he wanted to. I just hit it square on the bat."

Mussina has been around long enough to know the impact of such a hit, given that the Orioles had just come so close to breaking on top.

"It's kind of deflating, having been on the other side of that when you think you have a chance to score and you don't. Then the other team comes right back and gets you," Mussina said.

Ventura provided New York with its lone run Wednesday with his first home run as a Yankee.

"He knows what he's doing," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He doesn't panic. Even when he gets behind in the count he knows what he wants to do."

Johnson made it 4-0, leading off the fifth with his third career homer.

Ponson, who yielded 21 homers in 23 starts last year, allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. He's 0-5 with a 5.94 ERA in his last eight starts against the Yankees.

"Sidney pitched well enough," Hargrove said. "He just picked a bad time to miss his spot. Sidney is a power pitcher, and when a power pitcher makes a mistake with a fastball, that has a tendency to happen."

Game notes
New York opens its home schedule Friday afternoon against Tampa Bay. The Yankees have won nine of their last 10 home openers. ... Chris Brock made his Orioles debut, following Ponson with two shutout innings. ... Giambi, playing DH after starting his first two games with New York at first base, went 1-for-3 and is 2-for-11 with the Yankees. ... Conine, who hit .311 last year, is at .100 after an 0-for-4 night.


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