Benitez's best pitch isn't to first He lets go-ahead run score on come-backer to mound


September 16, 1997|By Kent Baker and Roch Kubatko | Kent Baker and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The situation called for cutting off the run if at all possible.

Seventh inning of yesterday's opener. Runners on first and third, one out and Cleveland tied with the Orioles.

Matt Williams hit a squibber to the right of the pitching mound and Armando Benitez (who had just entered the game) calmly turned and tossed Williams out at first while Jim Thome scored the tying run standing up.

"I was yelling 'home, home,' " manager Davey Johnson said. "But my voice doesn't carry that far."

Benitez never looked toward the plate although catcher Chris Hoiles also was yelling for the ball.

"Maybe he was thinking he didn't have a chance to get him," said Hoiles. "I don't know. I'm not getting into his [Benitez'] head."

The Orioles overcame the gaffe and won on Jeffrey Hammonds' two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.

Mathews rebounds

Reliever Terry Mathews accomplished a great deal in 1 1/3 innings Sunday night. Besides lowering his ERA to 4.21 by blanking the New York Yankees, Mathews didn't allow a hit for the first time in nine appearances. His mechanics were sound and his mind was put at ease.

"That's what I've been looking for," said Mathews, who had given a run in nine of his last 12 outings. "I finally stayed back a little bit, got the ball down and got people out. I was kind of having to talk myself through it on the mound."

Mathews regressed a little in the second game of yesterday's doubleheader, but not much. Tony Fernandez reached out and poked a double down the left-field line leading off the ninth, and later scored on a sacrifice fly.

Mathews said most of his trouble resulted in poor balance, with his weight shifting too far forward and causing his arm to drop slightly. "The ball was going from knee-high to mid-thigh and belt-high, and was losing some of its movement. With those two combinations, there's nothing but trouble," he said.

Pitching coach Ray Miller said the problem was as much mental as mechanics.

"I just think it was a state of mind, a little bit," Miller said. "He's been a great guy for us. When I look at the whole year, in my book I put an H next to him every time he holds a lead for us, and he's got a whole bunch of them."

Johnson defends 'tired' 'pen

Johnson disagreed with the notion that he was bringing a fatigued bullpen into yesterday's doubleheader.

"Contrary to what is written around here, my bullpen is not tired," he said. "My long men, when your starters don't keep you in the game, they're going to get used a little bit. But [Brian] Williams can throw every day. Actually, the more he throws, it's probably better for him."

Johnson used four relievers in Game 1 yesterday, none more than 1 2/3 innings. Closer Randy Myers, pitching for the first time since Sept. 5 in New York, recorded his 42nd save in 43 opportunities. Three relievers worked the nightcap, none more than 1 1/3 innings.

A positive for Boskie

Shawn Boskie entered the first game with two outs in the fifth inning, replacing Esteban Yan. Boskie had allowed 12 runs in his previous four appearances since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1, but got away clean yesterday.

His first pitch, to Matt Williams, was lined to left for a single, but Boskie retired Fernandez to end the inning. He walked Pat Borders to lead off the sixth, then got the next two outs before Johnson called on left-hander Arthur Rhodes, giving Boskie the chance to leave on a good note.

"Sometimes, it can feel like a big weight gets lifted off your shoulders when you just have a little success," he said. "It's something to build on."

Just as encouraging, he had no additional swelling in his right elbow after his previous outing Friday night against the Yankees.

"It kind of stayed the same. It's very manageable. I feel good, so I don't see any reason why I can't help," he said.

Johnson not pushing Alomar

If Roberto Alomar's comeback from a pulled groin muscle was judged solely on his hitting, it would be a rousing success.

Entering the doubleheader with three hits in his last four at-bats, Alomar went 3-for-5, including a two-out pinch hit in the opener that preceded Hammonds' game-winning drive.

But anyone who has watched Alomar knows better. He's still not running at full speed, as evidenced by his inability to beat out a slow roller to the left side Sunday that ended the sixth inning and left the bases loaded. Even so, Johnson said he believes Alomar is close to being "over the hump."

"I think he's getting a little stronger and feeling a little more sure that it won't break on him. That's important," Johnson said.

"He works hard at it in the weight room, on the treadmill. He still gets a little stiff. It's not something I want to push him with. I don't want to have fatigue come in there and then there be a problem."

Asked if he feels Alomar will be 100 percent for the playoffs, Johnson said, "I'll take him whatever percent he is."

Around the horn

To make room for Eric Davis on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher B. J. Waszgis for assignment. They also recalled outfielder Danny Clyburn from Triple-A Rochester. Clyburn got his first major-league at-bat in Game 1, bouncing to second. Manny Ramirez extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games in Game 2. After going 3-for-4 in the opener to lift his average against the Orioles to .545 (12-for-22), David Justice went 0-for-4.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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