Chicago rips Erickson in O's 8-2 loss Yields 8 runs, 3 HRs as W. Sox's Fernandez goes distance for win

Alomar extends streak to 21

Dobson 'certainly

concerned' by starters

June 08, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

The difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs may be starting pitching.

The Chicago White Sox, just one game back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central and whose 37-21 record makes them a favorite for the wild-card spot, have it.

The Orioles, who are 32-24 and one game back of the New York Yankees, don't.

The White Sox hammered starter Scott Erickson for a season-high eight earned runs and three home runs last night, defeating the Orioles, 8-2, before a sellout crowd of 47,209 at Camden Yards.

"He's not alone," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said after Erickson's six-inning-plus stint. "It seems like everyone in the starting rotation's having problems. They can pitch a gem and then it's like they've never pitched up here before."

The only bright spot for the Orioles was Roberto Alomar, whose first-inning bases-empty home run extended his hitting streak to 21 games.

The hitting streak is the longest of Alomar's career and ties Albert Belle's April 27-to-May 21 run for the longest in the major leagues this season.

Alomar also singled and scored the Orioles' only other run in the eighth, raising his batting average to .408.

Alomar's hitting meant little in light of the pitching disparities between the two teams.

Alex Fernandez (6-3) shut down the Orioles with a rare complete-game victory at Camden Yards.

Fernandez spread 11 hits, two runs, one walk and seven strikeouts and showed why the White Sox have the best pitching in the American League and the only ERA (3.91) under 4.00.

Fernandez is one of four super Chicago starters along with Wilson Alvarez (7-3, 4.38 ERA), James Baldwin (5-1, 3.40) and Kevin Tapani (6-3, 3.10).

"Out of the 11 hits, I think five or six were hit pretty good," Fernandez said. "The offense did a good job of scoring early and defensively we played well. I was able to keep the score down and give our guys a chance to score runs."

It was his first complete game of the year and only the second by the Chicago staff, as the White Sox posted their seventh win in eight games. Fernandez was aided by two double plays and a leaping catch by center fielder Darren Lewis, who robbed Luis Polonia of an extra-base hit in the first.

"Alex had an outstanding game, really didn't have any rough spots, no real jams," White Sox manager Terry Bevington said.

The Orioles, meanwhile, are hurting for starting pitching.

Mike Mussina is winning (8-2) but struggling (4.85). David Wells (3-5, 5.28), Kent Mercker (3-3, 6.70) and Jimmy Haynes (2-5, 8.46) are just plain struggling.

Johnson said "there's a real good chance" he'll start highly touted Rocky Coppinger on Tuesday in place of Haynes. Hopefully for the Orioles, Coppinger can provide frustrated pitching coach Pat Dobson with some relief.

"We're certainly concerned," Dobson said. "I've been concerned about our pitching all year except for the first 13 games. For each guy, a different thing is going wrong."

The Orioles' 5.38 ERA is the league's third worst, ahead of only Seattle and pitching-poor Detroit.

Johnson and Dobson agree that the pitching staff's biggest problem is consistency.

For example, Erickson pitched beautifully in his last start June 2, holding the California Angels to six hits and one run over eight innings as the Orioles cruised to a 14-1 victory.

Last night, Erickson (3-5) gave up 10 hits, eight runs, four walks and three home runs. He had only given up two home runs all year.

"He seemed like a different pitcher," Johnson said. "I don't have an answer. I just see a great outing and one that's not so good."

Erickson -- who on May 12 was the last pitcher to throw a complete game at Camden Yards -- gave up a bases-empty home run to Tony Phillips to lead off the game, and Ron Karkovice's two-run homer in the second inning. Both balls were aided by a fierce wind blowing out to left.

"The ball was carrying pretty good out there," Erickson said. "I didn't think they were going to be home runs, but they were. That's life."

But Erickson's other troubles had nothing to with the wind. He couldn't figure out how to get anybody out with two outs.

Dobson said he wasn't keeping the ball down in the strike zone.

"I mentioned it to him between innings, I mentioned it to him when [Dave] Martinez was up and he threw a nice little sinker to get out of the inning," Dobson said. "I wish he could do that all the time. He just hasn't been able to do it."

With two outs in the fourth, Erickson forgot Dobson's advice. Ozzie Guillen singled, Phillips doubled, Lewis walked, Frank Thomas singled and Robin Ventura doubled. Four runs scored before Erickson got Harold Baines to ground out, but by that time the White Sox led 6-1.

"There are times when you make a big pitch and get out of the inning," Dobson said. "They haven't been able to do that. That's why we have a lot of multiple-run innings."

Erickson said his worst pitch of the night came on Ventura's two-run home run in the seventh inning that went over the right-field scoreboard, giving the White Sox an 8-1 lead and leading to Erickson's departure.

Erickson said he wasn't discouraged by his outing.

"I wasn't disappointed with the way I threw the ball," he said. "It's a club I have a lot of trouble with."

What the Orioles are having trouble with is starting pitching. "But we are looking," Johnson said.

To get into the playoffs, they'll probably have to find it.

Orioles today

Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 1: 05

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: White Sox's James Baldwin (5-1, 3.40) vs. Orioles' Kent Mercker (3-3, 6.70)

Tickets: 200 remain

Pub Date: 6/08/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.