As soon as Tom Candiotti heard the expected weather for the Cleveland Indians' trip to Baltimore, he knew it was going to be his kind of night.
Candiotti likes it hot, and yesterday's 93-degree temperature at game time was just right for him, as he went seven innings to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2. Candiotti (6-2) allowed two runs -- one earned -- as he lowered his ERA to 2.38 (moving ahead of the Boston Red Sox's Roger Clemens and into fourth in the American League).
"I know when I pitch, the weather makes a big difference," said Candiotti, 33. "In Cleveland, when the wind's blowing and it's cold, it's tough to throw. But it seems every time I pitch in Baltimore, it's hot and humid. And when you throw a knuckleball, you like it like that."
Candiotti seems to have taken a liking to any place he pitches away from Cleveland. In five road starts this season, Candiotti is 4-0 and has allowed just five earned runs. He is 7-4 lifetime against the Orioles with a 2.55 ERA.
Yesterday, he was in command from the outset, striking out the first two batters he faced and holding the Orioles hitless until Mike Devereaux led off the fourth inning with an infield hit. Devereaux scored and Cal Ripken followed when Cleveland right fielder Beau Allred bobbled Randy Milligan's hit. But, with runners on first and second and one out, Candiotti struck out Sam Horn and Tim Hulett to end the inning.
"I didn't have my A-stuff tonight. The knuckleball was decent, the curveball was decent," said Candiotti, who struck out seven, getting Juan Bell three times. "I was really pleased the way things were going, but I was really beat when I came out. In a close game like that, you find yourself in a lot of clutch situations and those pitches take a lot out of you."
Candiotti was happy that his team -- three games ahead of the last-place Orioles -- was able to win a close game. The Indians had lost three one-run games in a four-game series in Milwaukee. In Sunday's loss, Cleveland had bounced back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead but lost, 7-6, on a home run in the 10th inning.
"We played Milwaukee real tough, and that was a tough game to lose," Candiotti said. "But one thing about this team -- it's resilient with young guys who bounce back real quick. It's good to get in the close games because that's how they will mature."
Candiotti's maturity figures to help the young Indians, who have eight rookies on the roster. It won't hurt them looking up to a pitcher who has had winning seasons in four of his five full years in the majors (77-67 career total). And, despite pitching for a struggling team, he appears on track for another.
"We've had a lot of well-pitched games and all you can do is perform as well as you can as long as you can," Candiotti said. "I'm just glad we got a win. As long as I'm pitching the knuckleball 60 to 70 percent of the time, I can go a long way with it."