Erickson keeps stuff, Yankees sinking Starter's complete game is lifesaver for weary 'pen


September 07, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Catcher Lenny Webster says he usually can tell after three or four innings whether pitcher Scott Erickson is on top of his game. Yesterday, the clues stretched even farther.

Searching for a quality start to save their bullpen, the Orioles got Erickson at his finest. The right-hander defeated the New York Yankees, taking a shutout into the ninth and winning, 4-1.

Erickson (16-5) went the distance for the third time this season, limiting New York to four hits and striking out five. He gave up a single to Tim Raines in the third inning, then retired 10 in a row until Bernie Williams walked with two outs in the sixth. The Yankees didn't get their leadoff hitter on until the seventh, when Paul O'Neill singled.

"He's been great from Day 1. That was another dominating performance," said manager Davey Johnson. "If he's keeping his sinker down and mixing in a few breaking balls, it's nasty. Nobody likes to hit off that. That's the way he's pitched all year long."

Erickson needed a day like this to wash away the bad taste from Monday's start in Florida. He sat through a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay in the second inning and left after the fifth, giving up four runs, walking three and not getting the decision in the Orioles' 10-4 loss. He threw 107 pitches, few that left him satisfied.

"I felt a little better today," he said. "Last start, I kind of erase that one. I wasn't ready for that game. Honestly, I just wasn't prepared. Today, I had some time to get ready. A normal routine, basically, and concentrate on what you have to do."

He had a good side session here on Thursday, which didn't happen before his previous start in New York in late May, when he lasted only five innings and allowed nine hits and six earned runs.

"He warmed up here for the last start and had all kinds of bTC problems. He was flying all over the place," said pitching coach ++ Ray Miller. "I think that was in his mind."

"I just concentrated and focused on what I had to do. It turned out all right," said Erickson, who hasn't lost since July 12 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I just tried to keep the ball low, the same thing I do every time I go out there. And luckily, I got some good defensive plays behind me. It could have been a lot closer."

Probably not. Erickson seemed to make the right pitch at the right time.

He walked Williams with two outs in the first inning, then got Tino Martinez to hit into a force. A two-out single by Wade Boggs in the second inning was followed by Jorge Posada's ground out. Raines' third-inning single did no damage because Erickson struck out Derek Jeter and got Williams on a bouncer back to the mound. Williams stole second after walking in the sixth, but Martinez popped to short to end the inning.

The Yankees finally broke through in the ninth, but it was harmless. Martinez led off with a double, and after O'Neill grounded out, Mike Stanley hit a sacrifice fly to center that drove Brady Anderson near the fence. Closer Randy Myers was warming in the bullpen, but Boggs tapped weakly to Erickson to put the Yankees out of their misery.

"He was dominant all the way," Miller said. "He fielded his position well. He's done that all year. That's one thing he's really improved on, and I'm not sure why. He's just finishing up so solid, his delivery's so solid. He caught a couple of rockets back at him earlier this year, and they told me that's been a problem for him in the past."

As always, Erickson had no trouble working with Webster, who can read the pitcher like a book.

"He probably shook me off twice today, and once he gave up the hit," Webster said. "He doesn't need to shake me off. I pretty much know what he wants to do in certain situations, and I think that's good, to keep a guy in a rhythm."

At one point early in the game, after Erickson had missed outside, Webster tapped his right elbow as he tossed the ball back to the mound.

"Sometimes he gets to where he tries to make a pitch or overthrow, and he gets on the side of the ball," Webster said. "When that happens, he loses his sink. The ball flattens out and he's up in the zone. So, every time I see him make a pitch like that, I just try to remind him, 'Let's get back on top and get that sinker going again.' He knows what I'm talking about.

"He was great today. I thought he was throwing the ball as well as he has all year. I was standing on second base and Jeter comes over to me and says, 'Man, he's got that great sinker going today.' And I said, 'Yeah, he does.' The only way you're going to have a chance is if you get him up in the zone. If not, he's going to be tough. And that he was today."

No time to lose

Scott Erickson hasn't lost a decision since July 6, the Orioles' last game before the All-Star break. He's 5-0 since then, with a 2.49 ERA. A look:

Date, Opp., IP, H, ER, Res

7/17, Bos., 4 1/3 , 12, 5, ND

7/22, Tex., 5 1/3 , 9, 1, W 9-3

7/27, Min., 9, 5, 0, W 9-0

8/1, Oak., 8, 4, 0, ND

8/6, Sea., 7, 8, 3, ND

8/12, Oak., 9, 3, 0, W 8-0

8/17, Ana., 7 2/3 , 10, 4, ND

8/22, Min., 8 1/3 , 5, 1, W 3-1

8/27, K.C., 7, 6, 3, ND

9/1, Fla., 5, 4, 4, ND

9/6, N.Y., 9, 4, 1, W 4-1

TOTAL, 79 2/3 , 70, 22, 5-0

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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