Reeling O's go fourth, finally, 7-4

Conine's 3-run double ends 6-game drought, as O's climb to 4-12

Guzman limits A's for 6

Home win satisfying after 1-8 road trip

April 24, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles returned home from one of the worst road trips in club history and ran into someone who could put it in proper perspective.

Former manager Frank Robinson, who presided over much of the frightening 1988 season that began with a record 21 consecutive losses, watched from the press box as the Orioles opened a 12-game homestand with a 7-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards.

"Hey, compared to 0-21, they're hot," joked Robinson, before first baseman Jeff Conine broke open a close game with a three-run double in the seventh inning to secure the club's fourth victory of the year.

Right-hander Juan Guzman pitched six solid innings and the offense finally figured out former Orioles prospect Jimmy Haynes to end a six-game losing streak.

The club had lost eight of nine on the first road trip of the season to drop to the worst record in the major leagues (3-12), but staved off a three-homer performance by the youthful A's lineup to open the homestand with a slightly rain-delayed, but uplifting performance.

One game does not make a turnaround, of course, but every long journey begins with the first step. Manager Ray Miller felt it was important to get off on the right foot.

"That was a pretty good effort by everyone," said Miller. "We've been trying pretty hard. Jeff kind of snapped after he hit into a double play in the second inning -- you could hear him scream down behind the dugout -- but sometimes that helps. He came through when it counted. I'm proud of the entire ballclub tonight."

Conine, filling in for injured Will Clark, had thrown a brief tantrum after helping the Orioles squander a two-on, no-out opportunity, but he put a big swing on reliever Tim Worrell after Mike Bordick singled home the go-ahead run in a four-run seventh.

"To come up with the bases loaded in a tight ballgame and come through that's special," Conine said. "Especially with the club struggling."

Guzman gave up two runs, both on bases-empty homers. He was overpowering at times and resourceful enough to get out of trouble on a couple of occasions, but still is looking for his first win.

"I made some good pitches tonight," he said. "My location was a lot better and I kept the ball down. My changeup was better, too. I still don't have my good fastball, but it's early in the season."

Miller had just one request for Guzman, who had failed to get through five innings in two of his first three starts: Throw the ball over the plate early in the count.

"It's not a prerequisite to be 3-1 on everybody," Miller said. "That's a tough way to pitch."

Guzman apparently can take instruction. He stayed ahead of the hitters in the early innings and kept the A's lineup largely under control, though Oakland did jump ahead on an opposite-field home run by designated hitter John Jaha in the second inning.

The A's also threatened in the third, when Rookie of the Year candidate Eric Chavez bounced a ground-rule double over the fence in the left-field corner to lead off and shortstop Miguel Tejada followed with a well-placed pop fly that fell out of reach of Albert Belle and two infielders for another double.

Chavez, however, waited to see if the ball would be caught, so he had to stop at third. And for once, the Orioles took advantage of the break to get out of the inning unharmed.

Guzman got Tony Phillips on a checked-swing third strike and walked Scott Spiezio to load the bases before retiring Jason Giambi on a pop fly to second and Jaha on a groundout to third.

"We've had a lot of bad luck," Guzman said, "but it has to change. We know things won't be the same the whole year. Not only do you need to play good. You need to have a little bit of luck, too, and we had that tonight."

Jaha may have provided the early lead, but he came up short on two opportunities to break the game open. He came up with the bases loaded again in the fifth and popped out to second baseman Delino DeShields.

Meanwhile, the Orioles were struggling again against a pitcher with Baltimore connections. Haynes gave up just one hit through the first four innings before allowing a pair of runs in the fifth on an RBI double by DeShields and a two-out run-scoring single by Brady Anderson.

The night before, local product Tony Saunders tied the Orioles in knots for 7 2/3 innings, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth before Bordick broke it up with a single. Haynes was almost as efficient until a leadoff walk to Conine in the fifth touched off the two-run rally that put the Orioles in front. Get this. It was the first time the Orioles had held a lead since the seventh inning of last Friday's game in Toronto -- a span of 52 innings.

And it didn't last very long. Matt Stairs led off the sixth with a towering shot into the center-field bleachers. But the Orioles reclaimed the advantage in the bottom of the inning as Haynes' control continued to deteriorate.

Haynes again walked the leadoff hitter (B. J. Surhoff) and eventually brought him home with a wild pitch.

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