Yanks keep O's behind 8 ball

Wild pitch, 3-run HR in 8th off Rhodes extend N.Y. hex, 6-3

Wind, luck aid 8th in row

Miller encouraged by Guzman start

April 14, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- A strong effort by a starting pitcher, plenty of early scoring opportunities and two uncharacteristic defensive gaffes by their opponent weren't enough to prevent the Orioles from adding another ignominious loss to a depressing start last night at Yankee Stadium.

A four-run eighth inning against Arthur Rhodes pushed the New York Yankees to a 6-3 win and a six-game winning streak. In dropping to 2-5, the Orioles failed to hold a lead and squandered numerous early chances to break out against starter Ramiro Mendoza.

"I don't know if we're snakebit or not," manager Ray Miller said after the Orioles' eighth straight loss at Yankee Stadium. "They're a good team, they're solid all the way through and when you believe things are going to happen they're going to happen. They're expecting good things to happen and it happens for them. Our guys played well. We just didn't come up with the big hit."

The theme has become a monontonous one for a team that has yet to mesh pitching and offense. Juan Guzman, taking a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning, offered to give the Orioles a respite from their slow-developing rotation, but was rewarded with a no-decision. Rhodes (0-1) suffered his second eventful outing in three appearances.

Not only did the Yankees beat the Orioles in the eighth inning, they waited until there were two outs to start. Tied at 2-2, a walk to Bernie Williams was followed by Tino Martinez's grounder to third that struck the bag and bounded over Cal Ripken for a double. With runners at second and third, Miller ordered Chili Davis intentionally walked. Rhodes, who struck out three of the first four hitters he faced, then bounced a pitch past catcher Charles Johnson to score Williams for a 3-2 lead.

The game unraveled for Rhodes when catcher Jorge Posada halted his 1-for-15 start with a three-run homer to right field.

"We were working him away, he was fouling pitches off and fouling pitches off. Instead of busting him [with a fastball], I threw a slider in the dirt and he barely nipped it for a foul ball. I threw a fastball in for a wild pitch. I held onto the ball too long," Rhodes said.

Not only did Posada enter the at-bat in a 1-for-15 funk, he was 0-for-14 versus right-handers, 1-for-1 against left-handers.

"It makes you happy to see a lefty, it kind of gets your hopes up," Posada said.

The same couldn't be said in the visitor's locker room. A week into the season the Orioles find themselves sitting in last place four games off the division lead. Perhaps worse, they appear afflicted by nagging deficiencies that plague poor teams. When there is pitching, the hitting has evaporated, and vice versa.

Guzman opened the game much as he did April 7 when he suffered first-inning damage from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But rather than being bled to death by a series of hits and walks, he was victimized by Derek Jeter's opposite-field fly ball that became a wind-blown home run.

Guzman followed the home run by walking Paul O'Neill, but escaped when Bernie Williams lined to third base on a hit-and-run, allowing Ripken to turn an easy double play.

Consistently high in the strike zone and behind in the count during his earlier 3 1/3-inning appearance, Guzman then settled down into the pattern he established in spring training.

Guzman retired eight straight hitters before walking Jeter to lead off the fourth inning. He then retired the side to extend his run to 11 of 12 hitters.

One trend that followed Guzman was frustrating run support. The Orioles extended a disturbing pattern by threatening to blow open the game early but instead stringing along the Yankees.

"They will score runs for me; I know they will," said Guzman, who last year received the third-worst backing of any American League pitcher.

The Orioles, who entered averaging one run per 1.96 hits compared to the Yankees' one run per 1.26 hits, stranded eight runners in the first four innings, leaving them with a 2-1 lead despite outhitting the Yankees 7-1 in that span.

Harold Baines tied the game in the first inning with a two-out single that scored Mike Bordick from second base. However, he never would have received the opportunity had Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch not bounced a throw past Martinez on Bordick's potential double-play grounder. With two outs, Mendoza struck out Albert Belle but the pitch handcuffed Posada, allowing Belle to reach base and Bordick to take second.

Johnson's two-out double and a walk to Anderson brought nothing. The Orioles generated an unearned run in the third after Will Clark reached on Knoblauch's error, the Yankees' first of the season. Belle advanced Clark with a single and Baines produced his fifth RBI in two games by singling. Baines' two hits equaled the previous seven games' output from the Orioles DH slot.

With runners at first and second and none out, the Orioles squandered the rest of the inning by failing to get the ball out of the infield.

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