Yanks clinch, but Orioles celebrate, too

September 26, 1996|By John Eisenberg

BOSTON -- Don't ask it to make sense.

It doesn't come anywhere close to making sense.

The Orioles celebrated on the night the Yankees clinched the American League East title.

They celebrated because Rick Krivda, of all people, won the biggest game of the year in the wild-card race.

And because Mark Parent, of all people, hit the biggest home run.

The Orioles celebrated last night because they beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park even though they managed but one hit from the second inning through the eighth.

Who is writing this stuff, Sox fan Stephen King?

It doesn't begin to make sense.

The Orioles were looking at a likely defeat in the wake of manager Davey Johnson's decision to start Krivda instead of Rocky Coppinger.

Krivda hadn't won a game since June 6, and had recorded only three wins in 23 major-league starts.

He was the eternal fifth starter, the Rochester yo-yo, just the guy you didn't want pitching a game you had to win.

What were the odds?

Understand what was happening: By pushing Coppinger back a day, Johnson was admitting that his first priority was giving his main starters an extra day's rest going into the season-ending series in Toronto.

Giving them rest was more important than winning last night.

Basically, Johnson was sacrificing last night.

And why not? Boston was throwing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, whom the Orioles never hit, and, well, why not start Krivda in those circumstances?

During batting practice, Johnson sat on the dugout steps looking particularly glum.

"Man," he said, "I need six innings [from Krivda] so bad."

Incredibly, Coppinger was in the clubhouse telling reporters that he didn't find out he wasn't starting until a teammate told him yesterday afternoon.

The media was told late Tuesday night, but Coppinger said he wasn't.

Just what the Orioles needed after losing two straight games and five of eight to threaten their lead in the wild-card race.

Enter Krivda.

"I didn't sleep too well after I found out I was starting," he said. "I never sleep too well."

The Orioles helped him by scoring three runs in the first inning, two on a home run by Rafael Palmeiro.

Krivda took the mound with a 3-0 lead and retired the side in order in the first, striking out Mo Vaughn. Then he got a double-play ball to end the second.

When Boston's Rudy Pemberton and Nomar Garciaparra led off the third with home runs to cut the Oriole lead to 3-2, it appeared the end was beginning.

"Krivda has been known to have one bad inning," Johnson said. "You wondered if this was it."

When he followed that up by walking Jeff Manto, the Fenway crowd turned up the volume.

But just when you thought Krivda was going to shatter, he got three outs to end the inning.

"That showed me right there that he's got a lot of heart," Johnson said. "There have been times before when he got rattled."

He was working with no margin of error; Wakefield settled down after the first and faced 20 Orioles in a row without allowing a hit.

The one-run lead was going to have to stand up, or so it seemed.

Krivda was pulled after those six innings that Johnson had so desperately needed, having allowed two runs.

His solid outing allowed Johnson to control the matchups late in the game with a rested bullpen. Terry Mathews pitched the seventh, Jesse Orosco faced Vaughn in the eighth and Armando Benitez retired Jose Canseco.

"Getting to the seventh with the starter made all the difference," Johnson said.

When Wakefield retired the first two batters in the ninth, it appeared closer Randy Myers would come in to try to save the game, hardly a sure thing considering Myers' inconsistency since early July.

But Wakefield walked Eddie Murray, B. J. Surhoff singled to right and up came Parent, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth.

Wakefield's first pitch landed in the left-field screen.

Suddenly, the one-run game was a four-run laugher.

"I was more relieved than anyone," Parent said. "I still had to go back out there and catch the ninth."

Benitez finished up the ninth and the Orioles retreated to the clubhouse in a rowdy mood.

"That's probably the biggest win of the season," Johnson said.

The Orioles had maintained their 1 1/2 -game lead over the Mariners in the wild-card race, and all but eliminated the Red Sox.

The Yankees were completing a doubleheader sweep of the Brewers that ended the division race, giving the Yankees the title.

Ordinarily, it would have been a night for long faces.

Instead, music blared and the players joked as they prepared for their flight to Toronto.

They celebrated on the night they lost the division race.

"Weird," Robert Alomar said. "But there is this thing called the wild card."

This thing that just might have the Orioles' name on it, thanks to Rick Krivda and Mark Parent.

Don't ask it to make sense.

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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