Krivda steers O's out of skid 5-game losing streak is history with 5-2 win over faltering Yankees

AL East lead grows to 7 1/2

After struggle in '96, '97 record 5-0 vs. N.Y.

September 05, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The Orioles put a halt to a nervous time last night because of a 27-year-old left-hander, a makeshift lineup and their first complete effort in a long week.

Rick Krivda did more than start the Orioles to a 5-2 win over the New York Yankees. He established the tone for a four-game series that now may serve as an end point to a pennant race.

The Orioles lead the American League East by 7 1/2 games with only 25 remaining. At their worst, they've still shown they're better than their competition.

"It might not have seemed big before the game, but it seems big now," manager Davey Johnson said.

The Orioles halted their five-game losing streak and pushed the Yankees' skid to four games. "The way we're playing, we've just got to worry about winning some games," Yankees catcher Joe Girardi said. "It hasn't been a happy clubhouse lately. If we don't start winning some games, we don't have any chance of catching them."

Making a loser of former combustible teammate David Wells (14-9), the Orioles got a sacrifice fly from Jeffrey Hammonds and a two-out double from Harold Baines that accounted for a two-run seventh inning that became the difference in the game.

"You're losing to the team that if we are fortunate enough to get to the postseason, you're going to have to play against," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They've blanked us this year, and you don't want to do anything that's going to give them an edge."

Less than 24 hours after suffering a three-game road sweep against the Florida Marlins, the Orioles had a feel-good experience. They have won all five games against the Yankees and now exert the same kind of edge that the Yankees wielded over them last season. The Orioles were 4-14 in 1996 against the Yankees.

"He pitched tonight. That's what he did," catcher Lenny Webster said of Krivda. "He used all his pitches, not just one or two."

Johnson called Krivda's effort "comparable" to last year's win on Sept. 25 in Boston, which allowed the Orioles to retain a 1 1/2 -game edge in the wild-card race. Krivda thought last night's pressure was more bearable.

"I was hoping to get five out of Rick and I got six," Johnson said. "We got the lead and I wasn't going to push it."

Krivda said: "I guess the game was important. But when you're in first place, everybody is trying to beat you. It was more of a gut check last year when you definitely needed a win. It was nice to get it, obviously. After five losses you want to be the one to step up and I'd like to think that tonight I did. We'll have to see if it has any effect on my future pitching."

In his previous start, Krivda had been hammered by the New York Mets. Wednesday night in against Florida, he narrowly escaped serious injury when part of the roof on the visitors' dugout collapsed. His right foot was bruised.

After that the Yankees' lineup didn't seem so bad, even when they took a 1-0 lead in the second inning then threatened to blow the game apart in the third.

Krivda bobbled slightly that inning, spilling a 2-1 lead but keeping the game in order. No. 9 hitter Rey Sanchez singled with one out and took third on Jeter's double inside the left-field line. In his most important stand of the game, Krivda allowed Chad Curtis a sacrifice fly to left before walking Bernie Williams and then getting first baseman Tino Martinez to ground to first base.

"That was the biggest at-bat of the game," pitcher coach Ray Miller said of Martinez's at-bat. "That was huge."

Krivda spoke with Miller between every inning, a taboo for many pitchers but a security blanket for someone who'd been battered for a 7.77 ERA.

Krivda was coming off a miserable start at Camden Yards against the New York Mets last Saturday in which he allowed five earned runs and 10 base runners in 4 1/3 innings. He needed 83 pitches to get 13 outs, none by strikeout. The Orioles were petrified enough of another abbreviated outing that they called up Nerio Rodriguez from Triple-A Rochester. If Krivda stumbled, Rodriguez was to eat innings.

"Every inning I sat with Ray and talked with him," Krivda said. "I've tried to adapt my personal theme to what he likes and doesn't like. He's not a talker the day a pitcher throws. A lot of guys don't like being told what's going on and what's wrong. I like that. Everything he's said to me has been positive."

Before last night, the Orioles were nowhere. With their bullpen overcooked, their injury report thicker than a novella and a pitching matchup overwhelmingly tilted toward the home team, there were plenty of reasons to expect something ugly.

But this team of well-connected veteran parts to compete well with seemingly oddball combinations. Rafael Palmeiro failed to start at first base for only the eighth time this season. B. J. Surhoff took over. Jerome Walton was originally penciled as the designated hitter but was scratched when he didn't return in time from a family member's funeral in Atlanta. He did return in time to pinch hit in the eight, grounding into a double play.

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