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

Wild-card lead still 1 1/2

Palmeiro surpasses Gentile's RBI mark

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

BOSTON -- Rick Krivda bounced back and forth from the minors to the majors all year, and when he did start for the Orioles, he was used in such a way that it was clear manager Davey Johnson didn't have a lot of confidence in his ability.

But at a time of dire circumstances, the Orioles badly needing a victory to bolster their hopes of a wild-card berth, Johnson turned to Krivda for an emergency start -- and Krivda responded with six strong innings and a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles' biggest win of the year. Rafael Palmeiro hit a two-run homer, his 142 RBIs surpassing Jim Gentile's club mark, and Mark Parent, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, hit a three-run homer in the ninth to wrap up the victory.

"Oh, how I love Krivda," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said after the game.

The Orioles officially were eliminated from the AL East race when New York beat Milwaukee in the first game of a doubleheader yesterday. But the Orioles maintained their 1 1/2 -game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the wild-card race and increased their lead to 2 1/2 games over the Chicago White Sox, who lost to the Kansas City Royals.

"Now, we don't have to worry about nobody but ourselves," Bobby Bonilla said.

The Orioles have four games to play, and because of Krivda's effort, all the Orioles' starters will be pitching on full, four days' rest.

Krivda took the mound less than 24 hours after Johnson told him he would start against Boston. Johnson had turned to Krivda in a state of desperation, after the Red Sox battered David Wells for nine runs in 5 1/3 innings; Johnson, faced with the prospect of having the Orioles' last five games started by pitchers on three days' rest, opted to insert Krivda into the rotation and give Wells, Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and rookie Rocky Coppinger an extra day of rest.

Johnson said about the move: "Now, I've got my starting rotation set so it's all up to us."

But Johnson had to understand the risks of such a move. Krivda, who is not eligible for the postseason unless another Orioles pitcher is injured, had pitched only twice in two weeks and could've struggled to find his command, as he did against Toronto Sept. 20. 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 shots 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.

Throwing Krivda, then, in the heat of a pennant race, was a major gamble. 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."

Did he ever. 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. Nobody has ever said Krivda has the best stuff, the best fastball, the sharpest curve. But nobody has ever accused him of being scared, either, and he aggressively was challenged the Red Sox.

Former Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, now an HTS broadcaster, said: "I have to say [Mike] Boddicker won some big ones back in '83 near the end of the season. He pitched some big games. Oh, sure, this is right up there with them."

Krivda struck out Mo Vaughn with a breaking ball to end the first inning, got through the second on a double-play grounder by Bill Haselman, needing only seven pitches. His early success must've heartened the Orioles' offense, which, for once, posted a quick lead and had it stand up past the middle innings.

Todd Zeile drew a two-out walk from Tim Wakefield in the first inning, and Palmeiro bashed a two-run homer deep into the right-field stands, his 39th of the year, matching his career high.

Wakefield walked Bonilla, and Cal Ripken hit a high drive to left. Mike Greenwell backed up against the wall, bumping the Green Monster, then reached and leaped. But the ball bounced just over his glove, and by the time the Red Sox recovered and relayed the ball back to the infield, Bonilla had scored the Orioles' third run and Ripken stood at second with a double, on his 99th RBI.

It was a remarkable outburst, considering the Orioles' lack of success against Wakefield in the past. The knuckleballer started the game with a 3-1 career mark and a 1.64 ERA against the Orioles, and the batting averages against him reflected that: Palmeiro, .071 (1-for-14), Eddie Murray .211 (4-for-19), Ripken .125 (2-for-16).

The Red Sox dented the Orioles' 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third, when Rudy Pemberton homered into the net over the Green Monster, and Nomar Garciaparra launched a tremendous homer into the Boston bullpen in right-center.

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