Sunday, July 17, 2011
Mike Mussina, 1998 Donruss Elite #47
In most respects, 1995 was a disappointing year for the O's. It was the only season from 1992-1997 that the team had a losing record, as they finished the strike-shortened campaign in third place at 71-73. If it weren't for Cal Ripken, Jr.'s successful pursuit of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record, most fans wouldn't remember the 1995 season at all. But the Birds did finish the year in style.
The Orioles did not permit a single run in the last five games of the 1995 season, a streak of 45 straight shutout innings. It started with a September 26 five-hitter by Mike Mussina, a 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. The next day, Scott Erickson bested Moose with a three-hit shutout over the Jays as the O's rolled 7-0. On Friday the 29th, the Birds returned home and Kevin Brown held the Tigers to five hits in a 6-0 victory. Though Ben McDonald lasted only six innings the following day, he pitched around five walks and a single hit and the Baltimore bats supported him with a dozen runs. Jimmy Haynes and Jesse Orosco yielded one hit between them in relief, setting the stage for the season finale. The rotation had turned back around to Mussina, who capped his own excellent season with a two-hit, two-walk, seven-strikeout whitewash for his 19th 'W' of the year. The Orioles won 4-0. No team has had four or more shutouts in a row since.
The longest streak in MLB history was crafted by the 1903 Pittsburgh Pirates, who kept their opponents from scoring for 56 straight innings. Of course, that was back in the Deadball Era. More recently, the 1974 Orioles (hey, how 'bout that?) had a 54-inning shutout streak, which is the American League record. From the eighth inning on September 1 through the eighth inning of September 7, no opponent touched the O's. Ross Grimsley, Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Cuellar again put up the zeroes in complete-game efforts, with McNally and Grimsley tacking on additional scoreless frames at the beginning and end.
Meanwhile, the modern-day O's are fortunate if they can hold a team to three runs.