Mike Mussina wasn't about to complain about his bad luck after he once again came tantilizingly close to making baseball history.
Mussina, who has flirted with a no-hitter twice before in his seven-year career, retired the first 23 batters before Frank Catalanotto lined a double into the right-field corner.
That was the only baserunner against Mussina (10-5) until Deivi Cruz grounded a single up the middle with one out in the ninth.
"Everybody thinks that doing something like this is disappointing. I don't know why everyone feels that way," Mussina said. "No-hitters and perfect games are unique situations. To be disappointed about it is the wrong way to look at it.
"I was excited that I was able to pitch that well, to perform that well and help our team win a game. The guys played great behind me."
Before Catalanotto's double, the closest thing the Tigers had to a hit came in the third inning when Oriole third baseman Cal Ripken dived to his left to snare a grounder by Gabe Alvarez. Ripken quickly popped to his feet and threw out Alvarez by a step.
In the second inning, center fielder Brady Anderson raced to the warning track to grab a fly ball by Tony Clark with his back inches from the wall.
Mussina did not face a threeball count. The right-hander, who twice before this season spent time on the disabled list, struck out eight.
"Obviously, a Mike Mussina night. He was awesome," Orioles manager Ray Miller said.
After the fifth inning, many of the fans in the sellout crowd of 47,519 began chanting "Moose!" -- Mussina's nickname -- with every out. Most stood and applauded after Catalanotto ruined his bid to become the first Oriole to pitch a perfect game.
"I threw what I wanted to throw and he hit it," Mussina said, matter-of-factly.
"He threw me a cutter inside," Catalanotto said. "I was pretty surprised because he had been going away the whole day and he was getting some pitches off the plate. He came in and I just reacted and it dropped in there."
The Tigers evidently felt Mussina benefited from a generous strike zone. Detroit manager Buddy Bell was ejected by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck in the top of the sixth for arguing a called strike. One pitch later, right fielder Bobby Higginson left the dugout and was tossed from the game by second base umpire Rich Garcia.
"Somebody ought to send a tape of that into the league and have them look at it and do something about it," Higginson said. "It's hard enough to hit as it is, you've got a guy giving a foot outside off Mike Mussina, it's impossible to hit."
"You can't say nothing to the guy. You say anything, he wants to throw everybody out. He thinks everybody comes to watch him play."
Luis Gonzalez was ejected by Hirschbeck after arguing a called strike in the eighth.
"He gives a pretty liberal strike zone," Mussina said. "I was throwing where he was calling it."
Mussina retired the first 25 Cleveland Indians on May 30, 1997, before Sandy Alomar singled with one out in the ninth. Mussina struck out the next two batters and settled for his second career one-hitter.
He also had a one-hitter against the Texas Rangers on July 17, 1992, the lone hit a double by Kevin Reimer with one out in the fifth.
Eric Davis homered to extended his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games as Baltimore improved to 19-5 since the All-Star break.
The Orioles got a run off Bryce Florie (5-6) in the second when Rafael Palmeiro singled, took third on a single by Harold Baines and scored on a double-play grounder.
Davis hit his 21st homer of the season in the fourth, a 406-foot drive over the center-field wall that made it 2-0. Roberto Alomar singled and scored on a pinch-single by Jeffrey Hammonds in the sixth.
Matt Anderson walked Anderson with the bases loaded in the seventh to make it 4-0.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved