Orioles dealt Royal flush K.C. edges Guzman, 3-2, to cap 1-run sweep

August 31, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

In another town at another time, Juan Guzman has stood here. Funny, it felt about as unpleasant then as now.

Guzman did everything possible yesterday to help the Orioles break a six-game losing streak except grab a bat, a helmet and an RBI or two against the Kansas City Royals. Since Guzman pitches in the American League, he wasn't allowed to try. Since the rest of the Orioles aren't hitting, either, his allowing three runs in seven innings to the Royals became too much to overcome in another one-run loss.

With their three-run fifth inning and four hitless innings of relief, the Royals completed their first three-game road sweep of the Orioles since 1991 by beating Guzman, 3-2, before 47,838 at Camden Yards. Not only did it push the losing streak to seven, it was the Orioles' third consecutive one-run loss.

Friday night, they lost 6-5 while hitting into five double plays. Saturday, rookie Brian Barber didn't allow a hit for 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss. And yesterday there were three more double plays to deflate a six-hit attack that scored only two of 11 base runners.

"In the last week, things have turned around. It's been rough on everybody," Guzman said. "It's not like you can say it's one person. Look at last night. Look at today. I didn't expect to see that over here. We have such a good ballclub."

Guzman (8-14 despite a 4.47 ERA) was handed a 2-0 lead when B. J. Surhoff forced home a first-inning run with a two-out bases-loaded walk and Mike Bordick hit his 10th home run to lead off the third.

Left-hander Chris Haney (6-6) came close to buckling after two outs in the first when Eric Davis singled, Rafael Palmeiro doubled and Cal Ripken walked to load the bases. Surhoff, yet to miss a game this season while fighting a 2-for-33 tailspin, refused to offer at a 3-2 pitch and gained his 81st RBI. Haney escaped, however, when Lenny Webster grounded a 3-1 pitch to third.

The Royals rallied by bunching four of their six hits in a messy fifth inning. The game-breaker was a two-out flare by Hal Morris ++ that dropped at the feet of center fielder Rich Becker. Earlier No. 9 hitter Mendy Lopez forced a tie with a two-run double.

Traded July 31, Guzman lost five times with the Toronto Blue Jays when surrendering three earned runs or fewer. The Jays scored two runs or fewer in nine of his 22 starts. Yesterday's defeat leaves him one loss shy of the league lead shared by the Royals' Glendon Rusch and the Chicago White Sox's Jaime Navarro.

Guzman believed he was leaving behind a run-starved team in Toronto for a robust attack here. For three weeks he was right. Now the Orioles have fallen into a 10-game slump in which they have scored 33 runs and batted .208.

"We're in a situation now where everything is going wrong, so you need to do different things," Guzman said. "I got myself ready today and thought I would get more strikeouts because every time they put it in play they bloop base hits. It happened again today and I don't believe that."

Now 69-67 and 1 1/2 games out of third place in the American League East, the Orioles haven't won since manager Ray Miller convened a clubhouse meeting last Wednesday in Chicago. Not only has Miller's lecture not jolted his club, it apparently irritated some players who felt unfairly singled out by his criticism over such issues as lax adherence to dress codes and spotty work habits. At least one player apparently confronted Miller during the meeting over a perceived double standard.

"We needed something positive and it was all negative," said one player. "It was all wrong."

While the perception wasn't universal, a trying situation now borders on embarrassing. The Orioles have been swept in consecutive series by two teams a combined 23 games below .500. They are 1-9 in their past 10 games after going 30-8 immediately following the All-Star break.

An obviously fatigued team was non-plussed by the timing of a charity golf tournament Aug. 24, one of the team's three off days after Aug. 6 and their first following a stretch of 17 games in 17 days. The Orioles also have sacrificed off days to play in last month's Hall of Fame Game and for an exhibition against their minor-league all-stars at Bowie. Complaints have been loud enough to reach Miller's desk.

"They've already told me we're not going to plan any more charitable things in August. We're going to try to do them earlier in the year," he said.

Miller plans to inject Triple-A outfielder Lyle Mouton into the lineup when rosters expand tomorrow. Surhoff's push to play every game this season likely will become a casualty. The Orioles desperately need fresh legs and the ability to manufacture early runs.

"I know we're trying. And there are going to be some close games. But everything has come late the last five or six games," said Guzman. "In the games we score runs, when do they come? Late in the games. We scored early when I first got here. It's tough to pitch in games with one or two runs. You've got to be perfect."

When will it end?

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