O's bats refuse to sleep, 11-3 After late night, O's, Erickson go distance to take Jays, 3rd place

June 21, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles apparently have found the secret to a great offensive chemistry.

Sleep deprivation.

They came back from Friday's post-midnight marathon to hit three home runs and pound the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-3, last night at Camden Yards, reclaiming sole possession of third place before an upbeat sellout crowd of 48,011.

Catcher Lenny Webster, who caught all 15 innings the night before, launched a three-run home run in the second inning to touch off a 16-hit offensive attack that didn't let up until the Orioles broke into double figures in the eighth inning. Eric Davis and Rafael Palmeiro also homered and Brady Anderson added four hits to carry the club to its fourth victory in six games.

Right-hander Scott Erickson, perhaps the only rested player to take the field in an Orioles uniform, went the distance, throwing 148 pitches, and gave up three runs on 12 hits for his team-leading eighth victory and fifth complete game of the year.

"Obviously, it was a big game for Scotty and for us," said manager Ray Miller. "We really needed it. He's been a workhorse for us all along. I take my hat off to him."

Erickson (8-6) figured to be on his own at least until the late innings. The Orioles and Blue Jays played nearly six hours on Friday night -- and yesterday morning -- and both clubs drained their bullpens before Palmeiro smashed a three-run homer off Bill Risley at 1: 25 a.m. to avert a suspended game and give the Orioles a 7-4 victory.

Every available Orioles reliever worked in that game, so Miller could only hope that Erickson -- the only Orioles starter to remain healthy all season -- would be able to give him seven innings or more on a 90-degree night. Erickson gave him a lot more, throwing 30 pitches more than usual in a grueling, one-sided duel with Blue Jays starter Woody Williams (7-3).

"We had a long night last night and the goal is to go out there and get 27 outs every time you take the mound," said Erickson, "especially after a game like last night."

If that put extra pressure on Erickson, he responded to it, cranking out the innings as the Orioles cranked out home run after home run to smooth the way.

"I don't think it affects him as it would somebody else," Miller said. "He and Moose [Mike Mussina] go out there every night expecting to go nine. It might be a concern for Jimmy Key, because he would have to push it a little bit. But I don't really want anyone to approach it that way. If you need to come out, we'll get somebody else, even if it's me or Jeff Reboulet or Mike Flanagan."

No such emergency measures were required. Webster pulled a three-run home run into the left-field bleachers in the second inning and the Orioles never really looked back.

Erickson gave up a run on two singles in the third, but Davis answered right back with a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning -- the 250th homer of his career -- to give the Orioles a four-run cushion.

Blue Jays catcher Mark Dalesandro added a two-run shot in the fourth, but the Orioles broke the game open with four more runs in the fifth.

"If we pitch decently, we can score some runs," Miller said. "Today, Camden Yards was home run friendly to us and we took advantage of it."

Anderson started the fifth-inning rally with his second double of the game and sped home on a one-out single by Harold Baines. Palmeiro followed with his 21st home run of the year, a drive onto the flag court behind right field that moved him into a tie with Blue Jays slugger Jose Canseco for fourth place in the league home run rankings.

Palmeiro remains on a tremendous roll. He has nine home runs and 22 RBIs through the first three weeks of June and has 13 home runs in his last 29 games, a pace that would make Mark McGwire proud.

The Orioles weren't quite through. Roberto Alomar singled up the middle and B. J. Surhoff tripled off the wall in right-center field to complete the four-run fifth.

Williams had to grin and bear it. He was in the same situation as Erickson, trying to buy time for a beleaguered bullpen, but gave up nine runs (six earned) on 11 hits over seven innings to absorb his worst beating of the year.

There haven't been many. Williams has been one of the club's most productive starters, winning seven of 10 decisions (including last night's loss) and pitching into the sixth inning in each of his 16 starts this season.

He had not given up more than six runs in any previous start and had held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer nine times, but has recently become vulnerable to the long ball.

He has given up nine home runs in his last four starts and has watched his ERA rise from a sparkling 2.60 to a more pedestrian 3.60.

Webster's fifth home run of the season set the tone for the steady onslaught. He had to be tired after going the distance the night before, but looked no worse for the wear in his first at-bat of the evening.

"We had a plan," said Webster, who later added a single. "Our scouting reports said that if you lay off the high fastball and make him come down into the [strike] zone, you can do some damage. Eric and I jumped on him and I truly believe that hitting is contagious."

Marathon man

With the Orioles' starting rotation decimated, Scott Erickson has done his best to ease the strain on the bullpen, going at least seven innings in every start since a 3 1/3 -inning outing against Cleveland on May 6. He also has thrown at least 100 pitches in each start:

Day Opp ... IP .. ER ... NP .. Res

5/11 Min. ... 9 ... 0 .. 104 .. W 4-0

5/16 T.B. ... 7 ... 4 .. 109 .. L 5-2

5/21 N.Y. ... 7 2/3 .. 2 .. 121 .. L 3-1

5/26 Sea. ... 8 ... 1 .. 111 .. W 8-3

5/31 Tex. ... 7 ... 7 .. 110 .. L 9-5

6/5 Atl. .... 9 ... 2 .. 107 .. W 3-2

6/10 Phi. ... 7 1/3 .. 2 .. 110 .. ND

6/15 N.Y. ... 7 ... 4 .. 114 .. W 7-4

6/20 Tor. ... 9 ... 3 .. 148 .. W 11-3

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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