TORONTO -- For a guy quoted as saying he doesn't like to pitch big games, Juan Guzman is doing a good job of dispelling that notion.
Guzman wasn't the winning pitcher as Toronto beat Atlanta in Game 3 of the World Series last night, and came close to being the loser, but he gave the Blue Jays eight strong innings to set up the 3-2 comeback victory.
When it was over, however, Guzman was nowhere to be found -- and the most overlooked player in the game.
"I still believe Juan misunderstood the question," manager Cito Gaston said after the Blue Jays took a 2-1 Series lead. "I would have to say, just go back and look at his last three games [the division clincher against Detroit and two ALCS wins].
"He certainly doesn't show any evidence [of not liking to pitch big games], at least not on the mound."
When Guzman got in trouble in the sixth and eighth innings, when the Braves scored their runs, Gaston didn't hesitate to let the right-hander finish either inning. "Juan has been a big part of this team the last two years," said Gaston.
"I find if you give guys some leeway, they'll do a job and get out of some jams. If there's a seventh game and Juan's in that game, he may just pitch me a shutout."
Last night's other starting pitcher, left-hander Steve Avery matched Guzman for eight innings but threw two home runs pitches (to Joe Carter and Kelly Gruber) and wound up with the loss.
"The first one was not a mistake," said Avery. "But the second one was -- I was trying to throw a changeup for a strike [on a 3-and-2 pitch] and I left it up and out over the plate."
Other than those two pitches, and a leadoff single to Roberto Alomar to lead off the winning ninth-inning rally, Avery was satisfied with his performance. "I pitched about as well as I can pitch," he said.
"I'm very happy with the way I threw the ball. But I put Jeff [Reardon] in a bad spot, and I guess it was a little too tough."
The bullpens continue to be major difference between the teams. Reardon has been on the mound at the end in both Atlanta's losses, and Blue Jays relievers have yet to be scored on in 7 2/3 innings.
"We thought Jeff could do the job," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, explaining his decision to have Reardon pitch to Candy Maldonado with the bases loaded. "He threw two good sliders for strikes, then he hung one. He could just as easily have struck him out."