Everything seems to be falling neatly in place for the Texas Rangers, who played without Juan Gonzalez and still blew past Mike Mussina and the Baltimore Orioles.
Emergency starter Luis Alicea homered and drove in three runs as the Rangers stretched their winning streak to nine, pounding Mussina in an 8-6 victory Tuesday night.
Todd Zeile had four hits for the Rangers, who improved to 11-1 since the All-Star break. Texas' nine-game streak matched its longest of the season.
"Nine in a row is a very good feeling," said Rangers manager Johnny Oates, who seemingly pushed all the right buttons against his former team.
Mussina (13-5), who had won his previous four starts, was tagged for 11 hits and seven runs in 4 2-3 innings. It was his second-shortest stint of the season and only his second loss since June 2.
The seven runs he allowed matched the total he gave up in his previous four starts.
"It was just bad pitching. I didn't give us a chance," the Orioles' ace said. "I was disappointed in the way I threw, but that's a pretty good club over there. If you don't have your best stuff, they're going to beat you up."
Alicea was inserted into the starting lineup at second base shortly before game time after Gonzalez, the team leader in homers and RBIs, was scratched because of a strained right wrist he sustained Friday. Mark McLemore replaced Gonzalez in right field and Alicea got a rare start.
Alicea responded with his first homer in 104 at-bats this season, a two-run drive in the second inning that put Texas ahead for good. He added a sacrifice fly in the third.
"We've got veterans on the bench who can fill in for anybody," said Texas starter Aaron Sele, the beneficiary of the Rangers' outburst against Mussina.
Sele (10-6) allowed five runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. He has woseven of nine decisions since giving up nine runs in a loss to Baltimore on May 16.
John Wetteland worked the ninth for his major league-leading 30th save in 37 chances. Texas is 7-1 in games decided by one or two runs since the All-Star break, and 30-17 in overall in that situation.
"It seems like two months now where each ballgame comes down to the last pitch," Oates said. "Fortunately for us, a lot of them have gone our way."
Belle's 25th homer staked Baltimore to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but the Rangers answered with a four-run second. After Alicea's homer, Mussina allowed two singles before Rusty Greer hit a two-out, two-run double on a liner to right that eluded the glove of the leaping Belle.
Alicea's sacrifice fly drove in an unearned run in the third. A two-run triple by Royce Clayton made it 7-2 in the fifth and ended Mussina's night.
"You can't expect Moose to be perfect all the time," Miller said. "He just wasn't comfortable out there."
Baltimore got a run in the fifth on an RBI double by Anderson, but Sele avoided further damage by striking out Harold Baines with the bases loaded. Anderson chased Sele with a two-run homer in the seventh, bringing the Orioles to 7-5.
Zeile singled in a run in the ninth, his seventh straight game with at least one RBI. Anderson led off the Orioles' half with his second homer.
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