Mets get jump on O's, hold on for 8-6 victory

Win streak ends at 5

first-inning problems continue for Guzman

July 19, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The cash-strapped, overmatched Montreal Expos had vacated Camden Yards, a most accommodating guest that will be missed. In their place last night were the New York Mets, with their assortment of big-ticket items and playoff aspirations.

Hardly a fair trade. And just what the Orioles didn't need as they attempted to hoist themselves from the bottom of the AL East standings.

Putting their five-game winning streak and renewed hopes on the line, the Orioles became tangled in another troublesome first inning by starter Juan Guzman and never got loose. His fourth pitch ended up deep in the left-field bleachers, setting the tone for an 8-6 loss to the Mets before 47,480.

The defeat lowered the Orioles' interleague record to 10-6, still tied with Oakland for the AL's best mark, and prevented them from climbing over fourth-place Tampa Bay. The Mets are 11-5 in interleague games, 27-19 on the road and no longer considered a threat only to the NL's wild card.

The Orioles (39-52) sent nine batters to the plate in the seventh and scored four times, bringing up Harold Baines as the tying run and leaving a glimmer of hope. It was soon dashed, as the Mets improved to 53-40 and inched within four games of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Mets closer Armando Benitez issued a leadoff walk to Brady Anderson in the ninth before retiring his former team to record his seventh save.

Guzman remains an early-inning enigma. He's been scored upon in the first in 12 of his 19 starts this season. Eleven first-inning runs have crossed in his last four starts alone.

Two of them came last night, including the 75th leadoff homer of Rickey Henderson's career. Henderson connected on a 2-1 pitch and sent it 413 feet to left field. He hung around home plate to admire its flight before taking such a wide turn he almost tripped over manager Ray Miller's foot in the Orioles' dugout.

Finally able to step in after Henderson's victory lap around the bases, Edgar Alfonzo slapped a double to left-center field and John Olerud walked. Robin Ventura singled to right with one out to load the bases, and Guzman walked Brian McRae on four pitches to force in a run.

With Ricky Bones warming in the bullpen, Matt Franco sent a tapper in front of the mound, where the defensively challenged Guzman started a double play that got him off the field after 26 pitches.

Such a pace wouldn't allow him to stay around for more than five innings. He gave up three runs in the fifth before leaving with the Mets in front, 5-1. Guzman, who might not have many starts left with the Orioles as the trade deadline approaches, allowed seven hits and walked five.

The Orioles had gotten a run back in the first inning against Mets starter Masato Yoshii, who won for the first time in a month. Anderson drew a leadoff walk, stole second and took third when catcher Mike Piazza's throw bounced into center field. B. J. Surhoff flew to left for his 75th RBI, 17 short of his career high.

In typical Guzman fashion, he got two quick outs to begin the second inning. Henderson walked, but was thrown out by catcher Charles Johnson on an attempted steal. Johnson, one of the club's few untouchables, has nailed 14 of the last 27 runners who have tested him.

Guzman toed disaster again in the third, allowing a two-out single to Piazza and walking Ventura. He retired McRae on a fly to right and breezed through the fourth.

Some aggressive baserunning by Albert Belle in the fourth positioned the Orioles to tie the game. Belle lined a single to center and stole second without a throw from Piazza, who bobbled the ball as he rose. He tagged and went to third on Baines' drive to deep center, and Will Clark walked to put runners on the corners for Ryan Minor.

Making his second start in place of injured Cal Ripken, Minor worked the count full after falling behind, 1-2. He fought off two low-90s fastballs, then swung through another for the second out -- and his second strikeout of the game. Another rookie, Jerry Hairston, bounced to third to end the threat.

Yoshii wasn't getting much offensive support at this point, but he also wasn't resembling the pitcher who had surrendered at least six runs in three starts this year, with a career-high eight coming against Atlanta on July 2.

A bigger cushion was provided for him in the fifth, with Piazza and Ventura grounding run-scoring singles up the middle and McRae lifting a sacrifice fly to center for a 5-1 lead. By the time Franco drove Anderson to the warning track in center for the last out, Guzman's pitch count was up to 101 and Bones was poised to enter for the first time since July 1.

Bones, who had been on the disabled list with a tired arm, was reached for two runs in the sixth on singles by Alfonzo and Olerud. He was removed with two outs for left-hander Doug Johns, who hadn't pitched in 13 days. Johns was greeted by a bouncing single from Ventura that scored Alfonzo.

By then, the Mets had sent at least seven batters to the plate in three of the first six innings.

The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, prompting Mets manager Bobby Valentine to bring in left-hander Rigo Beltran to face Anderson. With the count full, Anderson beat out a tapper that Piazza fielded up the third-base line, reducing the Mets' lead to 8-2.

With Jeff Reboulet batting, Beltran uncorked a wild pitch for the Orioles' third run. Reboulet, who replaced Mike Bordick at shortstop the previous inning, scored Johnson with a grounder to short.

Surhoff bounced an RBI single to right and Belle singled off right-hander Turk Wendell. The Mets went to their bullpen again, bringing in left-hander Dennis Cook, who retired Baines on a pop-up.

Jeff Conine's homer off Cook with one out in the eighth cut the Orioles' deficit to 8-6, but they would get no closer.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: New York Mets

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Mets' Octavio Dotel (1-1, 6.61) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (1-3, 5.93)

Tickets: 6,500 remain

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