Krivda left behind as Pettitte wins rookie battle, 5-4


They are both left-handed, both rookies and have both impressed in their first seasons. And last night, Rick Krivda of the Orioles and Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees faced one another.

But while Krivda is merely trying to improve his chances for a spot in the Orioles' rotation next year, Pettitte is playing a critical role in New York's push for the playoffs. Pettitte won his fourth straight decision, 5-4, before 44,289 at Camden Yards, enabling the Yankees to tie Seattle atop the AL wild-card standings.

Pettitte survived a bit of a scare in the final inning. The Orioles trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, showing no signs of life. After Bobby Bonilla's two-run homer in the first, Pettitte had made them look awful. Cal Ripken grounded out leading off the ninth, the 13th straight hitter retired by the left-hander.

But Bonilla blooped a single to right, and Rafael Palmeiro pulled a high drive down the right-field line, the ball bouncing off the foul pole, Palmeiro's 35th homer of the year.

Yankees manager Buck Showalter hustled out of the dugout and called for closer John Wetteland, who gained his 25th save by retiring Chris Hoiles on a fly to left and striking out Harold Baines.

The Yankees' headliners are David Cone and Jack McDowell, but Pettitte may be the key for New York; he had beaten playoff contenders California, Seattle and Boston before stifling the Orioles last night. And given the fact that Cleveland and California have been vulnerable against left-handers, he could be vital if the Yankees actually reach the playoffs.

Orioles manager Phil Regan thinks he is ready now, and is going to get better. "I think he's going to be one of the top young left-handers in the league," Regan said. "It doesn't look like pressure bothers him too much. He looks pretty cool."

Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly said: "You don't want to put pressure on him that he doesn't deserve yet, but he really has a chance to be a good pitcher for a long time if he can stay healthy and continue to improve.

"He has all the pitches. He can make the ball go on both sides of the plate, and he pitches a lot older than what his experience shows. He knows he can pitch here, and he hasn't been overwhelmed."

The last two seasons, Pettitte has been considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and when other clubs have discussed trades with New York, they repeatedly have asked about Pettitte. In the 1980s, when the Yankees had a habit of dealing their top prospects, they may have considered.

But the Yankees hung onto Pettitte, and in light of the shoulder injury to Jimmy Key, this has turned out to be a good decision. Pettitte started the year in the bullpen, pitching five games in relief before being optioned to the minors. He returned in May and joined the rotation, and has gradually improved.

Beyond his trouble in the first and last innings, Pettitte dominated the Orioles. Mark Smith singled with one out in the second, and Pettitte picked him off first -- Pettitte's 10th pickoff, a league high. Bonilla singled in the fourth and didn't advance. Smith singled leading off the fifth, and then Pettitte retired the next 12 hitters. Easily. Three balls left the infield, nothing really hit very hard.

"This is the first game of the series," said Pettitte, "and you always want to come out and win the first game."

Pettitte's counterpart, on the other hand, had problems. Krivda had been very fine in his prior start against the Cleveland Indians, his breaking pitches sharp and his fastball nipping at both sides of the plate. Last night, his curveball rolled out of his hand, staying up in the strike zone, and he seemed to labor for each out, when he got them.

"I don't know why," he said, "but I can't seem to get my curveball going in the early innings. . . . It's been that way most of the time I've been here."

Ruben Sierra pulled a double leading off the second inning, and advanced to third when second baseman Bret Barberie fumbled Jim Leyritz's grounder up the middle. Gerald Williams popped to first, but Mattingly flied to center, scoring Sierra with New York's first run.

Bernie Williams homered to left in the third inning, and with a runner at second and two out Sierra slammed a low liner to center; for just an instant, Curtis Goodwin froze, then tracked the ball on a dead run and reached down to catch it inches off the ground, saving Krivda from another run.

Krivda hit Leyritz with a pitch leading off the fourth, and with one out, Mattingly singled. Yankees rookie Russell Davis doubled, driving home Leyritz, and a grounder by Pat Kelly scored Mattingly. The Yankees led 4-2.

Krivda battled through with less than his best, preventing the Yankees from adding to their lead through the eighth inning.

There appeared to be some confusion for the Orioles in the top of the ninth. The infielders came out onto the field and warmed up, as always. But no Orioles pitcher took the mound. Umpire Gary Cederstrom walked over to the Orioles' dugout to ask about whether Krivda was still pitching, or if a reliever was needed.

After a couple of minutes, Krivda ran out onto the field to start the ninth; he would say later that he had been inside the clubhouse, getting a drink and changing his shirt.

After Mattingly doubled with one out, Terry Clark relieved Krivda, who had thrown 123 pitches. Wade Boggs, bothered by a sore hamstring, pinch-hit for Davis and lined a single and Mattingly ran home with the Yankees' fifth run.

That turned out to be a run that the left-hander -- the Yankees' left-hander -- needed for victory.


Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Yankees' Sterling Hitchcock (8-9, 4.96) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (10-10, 5.37)

Tickets: 240 remain

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