ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Twenty-four hours after the immortal Pep Harris beat the Orioles with his slow stuff, California's Dennis Springer shut them out for five innings with his knuckleball last night. Surely this was it, the surest sign of all the Orioles are not made of the right postseason stuff.
But that was before the Orioles came back in the sixth inning against Springer and reliever Mark Holzemer and bashed three homers. Scott Erickson pitched a marvelous game, beating the Angels, 4-2, to improve his career record against California to 12-2. Randy Myers struck out the side in the ninth to gain his 27th save.
"Well, we needed that," manager Davey Johnson said after the Orioles concluded a 4-3 West Coast swing. "We had to come away with a winning road trip. . . . We needed to stay where we're at, or get better. Scotty pitched a great game for us."
Eddie Murray failed to hit his 500th home run and now brings his quest back to Camden Yards for a seven-game homestand.
The Orioles deserved to be left for dead in June, in July, when Harris pitched Tuesday, and you know what? They're alive and a game behind the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card race and still four games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.
Power makes up for the Orioles' other ills: they have 225 homers now, and only the 1961 Yankees have hit more. September seems to be a cure-all for Erickson, who is 18-7 in 31 games in this month, with a 2.51 ERA.
This win did not come easily for Erickson (10-11) or the Orioles, who fell behind in the first inning.
Jim Edmonds slashed a liner into the left-field corner, where, at Anaheim Stadium, the wall curls at the point where the flag pole is located. B. J. Surhoff, playing left field for only the fourth time since July, approached the corner cautiously, waiting for a strange carom or roll.
Try as he may, though, the ball managed to get by him, despite a dive reminiscent of a hockey goalie, and Edmonds reached third. Surhoff, who chastises himself about as hard as anyone in baseball, stood on the warning track with hands on hips, his expression betraying total self-disgust.
Surhoff's bobble was the first error committed by the Orioles in 10 games, and it eventually led to a run on Tim Salmon's grounder to short.
For some time, it was the only run. Springer shut out the Orioles in a complete-game performance Aug. 25, and the knuckleballer shut them out for the first five innings last night. The Orioles had so many near-misses, long fly balls to the warning track, that it almost seemed as if Springer didn't have enough velocity on his pitches for the Orioles to hit them out. Surhoff hit a high fly to the deepest part of left-center in the second, Todd Zeile hit a towering shot to left in the fourth.
Brady Anderson said there was not a sense of urgency in the dugout as the sixth inning began with the Orioles down 1-0. "The best thing to do is stay calm, and not look at [the situation] with a sense of urgency," he said.
Still, Johnson must've felt like he had too much information as he watched: Chicago had beaten Detroit, the Yankees were beating Oakland, and the Orioles were getting shut out by a pitcher who shut them out 10 days before.
But the Orioles' lumberjacks came alive, and in the larger scheme of things, just in the nick of time.
Batting with one out and no one on base in the sixth, Anderson swung violently a couple of times at knucklers. He did so again on a 2-2 pitch. Gone, a tremendous blast high and far over the right-field wall, his 44th of the year. Baseball's greatest home run hitters of 1996: Mark McGwire, with 46, Albert Belle (44), and Anderson, who has 44 overall and six in his last seven games. Six more and Anderson will be the first Oriole ever to achieve 50.
Following Anderson, Zeile waited out Springer's knuckleball to a full count, and Springer came back with another knuckler. A lousy knuckler, the kind that spins just enough to negate the impact aerodynamics make on its flight. Zeile bashed the ball at about the height of his chest, and the ball zoomed out to left, Zeile's third homer since joining the Orioles.
Roberto Alomar singled, and Angels pitching coach Joe Coleman, who has seen Springer blow up time and again in the middle innings, shocked the crowd by signaling for a reliever.
Even more shocking was Coleman's choice -- left-hander Mark Holzemer, sporting an ERA better suited for a seismograph, 8.39.
The Angels wanted Holzemer, a left-hander, to dispose of the left-handed-hitting Rafael Palmeiro. Instead, Palmeiro disposed of Holzemer, ripping his 32nd homer of the year, with one on, and the third within a span of four hitters for the Orioles, who took a 4-1 lead.
The Orioles led 4-1 after 7 1/2 innings. Erickson was cruising, retiring 14 straight hitters in one stretch. He allowed four hits through the first seven innings.
Garret Anderson doubled to lead off the eighth, and after Jorge ** Fabregas grounded to third, the left-handed-hitting Jack Howell