Guzman leads way over Rays, 2-1 Davis' streak at 26 as O's win sixth of 7

August 11, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Juan Guzman arrived in Baltimore only last Monday. He still needs time to learn that the Orioles' bullpen can be trusted.

Thanks to a second straight strong outing by their newest arm, the Orioles combined a stifling bullpen tag team, a meaningful addition to Eric Davis' club-record hitting streak and defensive artistry from Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken to take a 2-1 win over the bothersome Tampa Bay Devil Rays last night at Tropicana Field.

The win was the Orioles' sixth in seven games, moved them eight games behind the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race and bumped them to 23-6 since the All-Star break.

Guzman (8-12) and three relievers combined on a three-hitter that allowed the Orioles their 12th win this season when scoring three runs or fewer.

There was plenty of surprise to go around.

Able to retire 16 of 17 in one stretch, Guzman was shocked to be lifted by manager Ray Miller after 5 2/3 innings. Alan Mills, Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez followed with 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief. Still, Guzman reacted abruptly to being babied in his new surroundings.

Guzman left the mound shaking his head in disbelief. He approached pitching coach Mike Flanagan in the dugout and was told there is leftover concern surrounding his right shoulder, which was operated on last September. He then met with Miller after the game to explain he no longer requires coddling.

"In that situation, I'm new here," said Guzman, who won his fourth consecutive start. "I should have gone through my pitch limit with the manager. We had a misunderstanding.

"I was so surprised. I never thought he would take me out in that inning. I've been pitching like this the whole year. I knew what I was doing all the way."

So did Miller. A veteran bullpen that was combustible in the first half has now become a strength. Immediately after Guzman's ouster, Mills got the night's most important out by striking out Devil Rays right fielder Bubba Trammell with runners at first and second and two outs. He has allowed only four of 30 inherited runners to score this season. Mills pitched the seventh, Orosco the eighth and Benitez the ninth for his 16th save. After a turbulent first half, Benitez is unscored upon in 14 of his past 15 appearances.

Regarding the turnaround, Miller said: "When we had injuries before, we were pitching everybody out of sequence. Now, we're in a situation where you can bring guys for the right part of the lineup. Jesse was in the right part of the lineup. Benitez was in the right part of the lineup for him. Alan Mills has done a great job all year of coming in with men on base.

"Everybody's falling into a role, but the lineups dictate. I very easily tomorrow could have Benitez first and Orosco last. I like it that way, because I think everybody feels important."

"I don't know why it's happening. I don't care to know. I just want it to continue," said Mills, the Orioles' most superstitious reliever.

It might help for Guzman to know, however.

Allowed a 120-pitch limit with the Toronto Blue Jays, the veteran right-hander has gone only 12 2/3 innings despite allowing eight hits and one run with the Orioles.

"[Miller] said he was just being careful. But next time is going to be different," Guzman said.

"I like the fact that he wasn't happy about coming out," Miller said. "I know he's a great competitor. But I thought it was the right situation. I thought it was more likely their team would put together some hits with men on base."

Guzman couldn't contain his excitement about the Orioles' defensive ballet. Alomar robbed Randy Winn of a third-inning single with a fadeaway catch-and-throw in the third. Ripken dived to his left to stymie Fred McGriff with two outs and the tying run at second base in the eighth. He threw from his knees to beat the Devil Rays first baseman.

"Robby and Cal Ripken, wow. That was unbelievable. Over there [in Toronto], we didn't have that kind of defense," Guzman said.

Ripken, who also supplied two of the Orioles' seven hits, even expressed satisfaction from what may have been his most spectacular play this season.

"The biggest thrill is you win the game," he said. "The fact that you contributed a big out is like getting a hit to drive in a run. Instead of a hit, you're getting an out. It's the same thrill."

The Orioles got all the runs they needed against Devil Rays starter Tony Saunders early. Davis extended his club record hitting streak to 26 games with a one-out double to score Brady Anderson in the first. In the sixth, Alomar flared a two-out single that scored Chris Hoiles with the eventual game-winner.

"I think we've been mauling some people, and tonight was a reminder that we pitch real good and we field real good," said Miller.

Same time last year

In the Orioles' 117th game last year, they lost to the Mariners, 8-3. Here's where the Orioles stood:

Record .. Standing .. GA/GB

74-43 ... First ..... +3 1/2

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Time: 7: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Kamieniecki (2-4, 7.20) vs. Devil Rays' Julio Santana (3-2, 4.22)

String of hits

Eric Davis' club-record hitting streak is at 26 games. Top Orioles hitting streaks:

Gms Player ...... Dates

26 E. Davis ..... 7/12-8/10/98

24 R. Palmeiro .. 4/24-5/22/94

22 R. Alomar .... 5/12-6/2/96

B. Bonilla ...... 9/10/95-4/3/96

D. DeCinces ..... 9/8/78-5/6/79

E. Murray ....... 8/17-9/10/84

21 J. Orsulak ... 8/2-8/25/91

20 D. Johnson ... 9/29/70-4/27/71

B. Nieman ....... 8/17-9/7/56

19 B. Boyd ...... 8/18-9/6/56

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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