Guzman throws off doubts, 8-0

Seven shutout innings, 4 Anderson RBIs give Orioles 3rd win in row

Rotation rounds into form

Navarro perfect game turns to 7-run fifth

May 06, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The old-and-improved Orioles extended their recent dominance of domestic competition last night, beating the Chicago White Sox, 8-0, with a seven-run fifth inning, a long-awaited return to form by starting pitcher Juan Guzman and a display of heads-up defense.

Two nights after giving a lethargic, even embarrassing, performance against a team of Cuban all-stars, the Orioles extended their season-high win streak to three by securing their second consecutive series and guaranteeing themselves at least a break-even 12-game homestand.

Now 9-17, the Orioles have won four of their last five. More significantly, they have completed a turn of the starting rotation without trauma.

Guzman (1-3), given an additional day's rest since an April 28 loss to Kansas City, backed up manager Ray Miller's move with a more controlled effort. The win was his first in nine appearances dating to last season and halted a personal five-game losing streak.

Guzman's seven shutout innings combined with rookie Gabe Molina's two perfect innings to give the Orioles their second shutout win in three games.

Center fielder Brady Anderson became the second player in as many nights to triple and homer in consecutive at-bats against the White Sox.

The seven total bases brought Anderson four RBIs -- half his total in 95 previous at-bats -- and allowed the Orioles to go from perfect game candidates against White Sox starter Jaime Navarro (1-3) after four innings to an 8-0 lead after seven. Anderson's bases-loaded triple in the fifth inning began a breakout of six two-out runs.

The Orioles hope last night represented a turning point for Guzman, yet to register consecutive quality starts in 17 appearances.

Guzman dropped his ERA from 8.10 to 6.23 and completed a five-game turn in which the rotation has constructed a 2.43 ERA.

"That's what we saw all spring training," said Miller. "But for whatever reason, [poor pitching] can be contagious. There's a fine line between overthrowing and relaxing and throwing good pitches."

For the first time this season, Miller can refer to "a pitching run," a string of quality starts that allows a bullpen to heal and an offense to play from ahead.

"It's a good feeling," said Miller, well aware his rotation has produced only two wins aside from Mike Mussina in the schedule's first month. "Hopefully, we can pass it down the line and take some pressure off everybody."

Miller and frustrated pitching coach Bruce Kison thought it sound to delay Guzman's start in order to give him two bullpen sessions between starts. Guzman also studied hours of video of himself in sharper times -- 1996 and portions of last season. Rather than grouse, Guzman welcomed the adjustment. "That was the key to this performance," he said.

"There's only so much you can do with a starting pitcher," Kison said. "You can't throw every day. As a hitter, you can go in the cage and work and work and work. As a pitcher, you need to save some bullets for the game. But he did a heck of a job tonight."

Statistically the American League's best starter in spring training, Guzman had become prone to overthrowing since the season started. Kison suggested he concentrate on driving more toward the plate and remaining more "closed." The effects were obvious.

"I was throwing a lot of strikes," Guzman said. "My focus was to be more consistent in the strike zone. That was the difference today."

Guzman also exhibited game management, long considered his weak spot. He walked three compared to six strikeouts and needed only 101 pitches to make his longest start of the season.

He sidestepped a bases-loaded situation in the fifth by getting cleanup hitter Magglio Ordonez to hit into a fielder's choice. Shortstop Mike Bordick contributed a heady play when he ran down Mike Caruso's infield single and threw behind McKay Christensen to initiate a six-toss rundown for the inning's second out.

The Orioles came off the field and jumped Navarro, previously 11-3 with a 3.50 ERA in his career against them.

Sending 11 hitters to the plate, the Orioles benefited from five hits, two walks and Caruso's error. Albert Belle halted Navarro's run of 12 consecutive outs by drawing a walk to begin the inning. Harold Baines singled Belle to third and Jeff Conine produced his fourth RBI in two days by pounding a sacrifice fly. With two outs and runners at first and second, slumping Charles Johnson became the inning's fulcrum by working a full-count walk.

Navarro seized at umpire Ed Hickox's call. Frazzled, he then committed a game-turning mistake by feeding Anderson a fastball that was driven to the center-field wall.

Anderson scored when Caruso boxed Delino DeShields' grounder and B. J. Surhoff returned the inning to Belle with his fourth hit in eight at-bats. Belle hit a two-run single off Greg Norton's glove at third.

"I didn't expect to get seven but your pitching can keep pressure on the other team, too," Miller said.

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