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Knee OK, Benitez has control relapse Despite walks, Miller likes his pitch selection

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Manager Davey Johnson sounded before the game as though he wanted to give relief pitcher Armando Benitez the day off after the right-hander was struck inside the left knee by a Jose Canseco line drive during the ninth inning of Friday night's 7-1 victory.

Johnson didn't completely rule out Benitez's being available yesterday, however. And sure enough, he began warming up in the seventh inning and entered to start the eighth.

It was a brief stay. Benitez walked the two batters he faced before being replaced by left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who got the next three outs without the ball leaving the infield to preserve a 3-2 lead.

Credit Rhodes with a rescue. However, it was temporary as Randy Myers surrendered a game-winning two-run homer in the ninth of the 4-3 loss.

Pitching coach Ray Miller said he didn't think Benitez's knee contributed to his problems. "He was just under the ball a little bit. He didn't back off, and I like that."

As for Benitez's run-in with Canseco on Friday, Miller said, "He threw it 95 [mph] and it probably hit him at about 105."

Benitez considered himself lucky. "It hit me in the muscle," he said.

Benitez, who stayed in the game and got the final two outs, was walking with a slight limp yesterday but said the knee felt better than it did Friday.

His pitching performance had improved before yesterday. Friday's scoreless ninth marked his second consecutive impressive outing and lowered his ERA to 6.00. He walked 11 in his first eight appearances, none over the next two, spanning 3 2/3 innings.

Much of the improvement has been with mechanics. Miller reminded Benitez to keep his weight back and his shoulder closed, and to stop relying too much on his fastball, something he worked to correct during spring training.

"Just about all spring, he threw sliders early in the count," Miller said. "He comes in here and three or four times in a row it was just fastball, fastball, fastball. He throws so hard he kind of gets out of control."

Mathews also struggles

Reliever Terry Mathews struggled for one of the few times this season, allowing a two-out RBI double to Brent Mayne and walking Damon Mashore in one-third of an inning. He was removed for left-hander Jesse Orosco, who retired Jason Giambi on a groundout to end the seventh.

It was only the second time that Mathews, who heard some scattered boos as he departed, had allowed an inherited runner to score. He has given up three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings over nine appearances. He has walked three and struck out 11. He also has retired all nine first batters that he has faced.

The first two runs he allowed came on April 5 in Texas, when Myers let two inherited runners score. Mathews also served up a 12th-inning homer to Boston rookie Nomar Garciaparra on April 24.

Around the horn

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who has been out since aggravating a pulled abdominal muscle during Tuesday's game in Minnesota, hit off a tee yesterday. Rafael Palmeiro's second-inning single extended his hitting streak to 14 games, matching the longest in the American League this season, by the Rangers' Ivan Rodriguez.

A single in the sixth inning stretched B. J. Surhoff's hitting streak to 11 games. He has not gone hitless in a game since April 13. Roberto Alomar's bunt single in the third inning was the first by an Oriole this season.

Canseco (flu) was scratched from the starting lineup. He is batting .193 (6-for-31) in his career off Mike Mussina. A's starter Mike Mohler was removed with one out in the seventh inning. He had made 87 pitches and 20 pick-off throws.

Pub Date: 5/04/97

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