O's stymie Boston, 6-2, boost hopes Krivda delivers six strong innings

Parent hits 3-run HR

Wild-card lead still 1 1/2

Palmeiro surpasses Gentile's RBI mark

September 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- If there are playoff games at Camden Yards next week, Rick Krivda is responsible. If the Orioles somehow win the American League title and play in the World Series, Rick Krivda is responsible.

In what Orioles manager Davey Johnson called the biggest victory of the year, Krivda pitched six solid innings in an emergency start, beat and all but eliminated the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, last night, and rescued the Orioles from dire wild-card circumstances.

Rick Krivda, who hadn't won since June 6. Rick Krivda, who became the first Orioles starter other than Mike Mussina, David Wells, Scott Erickson and Rocky Coppinger to win since May 26. Rick Krivda, who was in the minor leagues at the start of September and isn't even eligible for the postseason roster.

"Oh, how I love Krivda!" Johnson exclaimed, after the Orioles maintained their 1 1/2 -game advantage over Seattle in the wild-card race, and moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Chicago.

Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro hit a two-run homer in the first inning, for his 141st and 142nd RBIs of the year, breaking Jim Gentile's club record, and backup catcher Mark Parent hit a three-run homer in the ninth to clinch the win.

Former Orioles left-hander Mike Flanagan watched Krivda from a Fenway broadcast booth, and tried to remember a more crucial pitching performance by an Oriole. "I'd have to say [Mike] Boddicker won some big ones back in '83," said Flanagan. "Oh, sure, this is right up there with that."

"It was," said Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar, "a big, big, big, big game for us."

Krivda's winning the biggest game of the season for the Orioles is like Ross Perot being elected president. Heck, it was a shocker Johnson started Krivda, because the manager never had shown much confidence in him this year.

Krivda outpitched Jimmy Haynes in spring training, and it was Krivda who was sent to the minors. Krivda was called up May 6, sent down July 18. Called up July 22, sent down Aug. 22. Called up Sept. 11.

When Krivda started, Johnson never left him in for long, often pulling him at the first sign of trouble, worried that Krivda was a pitch or two away from disaster.

But late Tuesday night, after the Red Sox pummeled Wells, Johnson turned to Krivda in a state of desperation. Faced with the prospect of having the Orioles' last five games started by pitchers on three days' rest, Johnson opted to insert Krivda into the rotation and give Wells, Mussina, Erickson and Coppinger an extra day of rest.

Johnson understood the risks. Krivda had pitched only twice in two weeks and might've struggled to control his curve and changeup. Krivda is left-handed, and throughout the history of Fenway Park, managers have tried to avoid starting lefties in Fenway, fearful of right-handed hitters popping cheap homers over the high wall in left. If the Orioles lost and the Mariners won, the two teams would be tied in the loss column in the wild-card race.

Krivda, though, felt confident. He called his brother, Mike, and his parents, chatted with Jim Palmer and Flanagan about how to pitch to the Red Sox. Before the game, he sat in a corner of the clubhouse, flipping back pages of a scouting report, as his teammates took batting practice.

Injured reliever Alan Mills was surprised to see Krivda in the clubhouse. "What are you doing in here?" Mills asked.

Krivda replied, "I'm pitching tonight."

"I didn't know that," Mills said, his mouth open. "Go get 'em."

Krivda felt horrible warming up in the bullpen. "No velocity," he said. "But I never lost a game in the bullpen."

He would not lose to the Red Sox. Krivda pitched superbly, in the classic style of a crafty left-hander: off-speed stuff away to get the hitters reaching over the plate, and fastballs inside. He had trouble gripping the ball -- maybe it was because of the chilled New England night, he thought -- but his curveball was good.

The Orioles scored three in the top of the first against Tim Wakefield, and Krivda finished the first inning by striking out Mo Vaughn, who had hit three homers off Wells Tuesday. Krivda shut out the Red Sox in the second, and, Parent said later, the Orioles on the bench began to get excited; maybe this was something special.

Krivda gave up back-to-back homers in the third, to Rudy Pemberton and Nomar Garciaparra, and the Orioles' lead was down to 3-2. But Krivda settled down, shutting out Boston in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

That was more than Johnson wanted, probably more than he expected, and after the sixth, he walked over to Krivda sitting on the bench to tell him he was through for the night. "Magnificent job, Kriv," Johnson said.

Krivda walked back to the clubhouse and received subdued congratulations, but he understood. The lead was one run, in Fenway Park. "There was still a lot of work to be done," said Parent.

Terry Mathews pitched the seventh, Jesse Orosco started the eighth and allowed a two-out single to Vaughn. But Armando Benitez relieved Orosco and retired Jose Canseco to end the eighth.

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