Guzman's solid effort is gone with the wind

Sidelight

Starter allows just 2 runs, both aided by strong gusts

April 14, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Juan Guzman reached out with his right arm last night, the one that had spun hitters on their heels in Florida, and turned back the clock. Not very far, mind you. Just to spring training, when he was the Orioles' most dominant starting pitcher.

In doing so, Guzman bypassed his season's debut a week ago. Best not to even look in that direction, considering the Orioles couldn't afford a repeat in a game that held more importance than a typical mid-April date.

Handed the ball in the Orioles' personal house of horrors, Guzman controlled everything in six innings except the wind at Yankee Stadium. He permitted two runs, both aided by strong gusts, and left with the score tied and deserving of a much better fate.

Guzman wasn't the pitcher of record in the Orioles' 6-3 loss to New York -- just the most effective. Small consolation, perhaps, but there wasn't a whole lot more to feel good about in the visitors' clubhouse.

"He stepped up," said manager Ray Miller. "He had a little extra today."

Most important, he had fewer germs. A flu bug did as much damage to Guzman in last Wednesday's start as the Tampa Bay batters, who piled on six runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.

"I physically feel a lot better and I just went back to what I was doing in spring training," he said. "When it comes to pitching, I don't make any adjustments. I'm going to keep doing the same thing."

The second batter Guzman faced, Derek Jeter, lofted a fly ball to right that the wind carried over the fence for a 1-1 tie. Paul O'Neill walked, but Guzman retired 10 of the next 11 hitters.

"I never thought that ball was going out. I thought it was an easy fly ball," Guzman said.

In stranding two runners in the fifth, he recovered three times after falling behind, 2-0. Chuck Knoblauch was the last Yankee in that inning to get ahead in the count, his at-bat ending with a called third strike.

New York pulled even again in the sixth, though it took a wind-blown leadoff triple by Jeter to set the table. The ball sailed over the head of center fielder Brady Anderson, who crashed into the fence as Jeter motored to third. A ground out by O'Neill erased the Orioles' 2-1 lead.

"I thought, `Well, this is an easy fly ball,' " Guzman said of Jeter's drive. "With Brady out there, I said, `This should be no problem.' "

Guzman's last pitch, his 107th, resulted in a foul pop by Jorge Posada with two runners on and the crowd roaring. Rather than opening the floodgates, he allowed only a trickle.

Miller had gone to the mound to talk to Guzman with left-handed hitting Tino Martinez at the plate and Bernie Williams on second after a one-out double. He stuck with Guzman rather than bring in left-hander Arthur Rhodes, and the decision proved correct when Martinez sent a lazy liner to second.

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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