Broken O's stumble into break Strong Erickson showing wasted

Yanks sweep, 1-0

July 06, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- In a season with no end in sight, the Orioles at least reached a fitting conclusion to their disastrous first half yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

Flogged again after a standout performance, starting pitcher Scott Erickson compared the weekend to the movie "The Truman Show." Looking drawn by the experience, manager Ray Miller likened it to nothing he has ever seen before. Competing against history, the Yankees danced away with a 1-0 win behind David Cone (12-2), who helped feed the Orioles their first shutout in 130 games against an American League team.

A season-high five stolen bases and a seven-hit complete game from Erickson (8-7) couldn't overcome the Orioles' season-long tendency to do the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time. The game's most disappointing team reaches the All-Star break at 38-50 -- a season-high 12 games below .500 -- and wrapped inside a 1-11 descent that has destroyed any suspicion this team could manufacture any late-season wild-card suspense.

"I think we need to step back without looking at the situation. I think we're better off if we just step back," center fielder Brady Anderson said after providing two singles and a career-high and club-record four stolen bases, with no return.

The unstoppable Yankees climbed to 61-20, tying the best-ever 81-game start, shared by the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1907 Chicago Cubs. In their storied history, no Yankees team had started better than 58-23.

By comparison, capping their first season sweep at home of the Orioles since 1985 must have seemed puny.

"It's not our year. It's as simple as that," confirmed Erickson, winless since June 20 despite a 2.21 ERA in the span. "I think that's been pretty apparent for some time."

Erickson completed his league-high sixth game, allowing seven singles and walking four. He allowed the afternoon's only run when he hit center fielder Chad Curtis with two outs and bases loaded in the third inning. Erickson's inability to hold onto Luis Sojo's grounder earlier had extended the inning.

"I guess I got what I deserved," Erickson said.

Miller allowed him to finish despite 136 pitches. He didn't have the heart to deny him a chance at a deserved decision. "He got better as he went on. He begged to stay in there. When someone has pitched like he has and it's 1-0, he's earned that right," said pitching coach Mike Flanagan.

The Orioles haven't viewed the high side of .500 since May 14, the night that Mike Mussina took a line drive to the forehead at Camden Yards. They are 28-48 without anything more than a three-game win streak since April 14, falling 26 1/2 games behind the Yankees and 15 1/2 games behind the wild-card leading Boston Red Sox. Third-place Toronto leads them by eight. This isn't a hole. It's the China Syndrome.

Though they won 98 games in 1997, the Orioles are only 81-81 in their last 162 games. They have lost 10 consecutive road games since June 12 and haven't been this far below .500 since the end of the 1991 season.

Though competitive in almost every game against the Yankees this season, the Orioles have sustained a collective wipeout.

The Orioles fled town with an 0-8 record in New York -- 0-6 at Yankee Stadium and 0-2 in last month's interleague mini-series against the Mets. They are now 2-7 against the Yankees with five of the losses coming by two runs or less.

"I doubt if anyone else has played the Yankees that good all year," Miller half-boasted. "That's the way it is, and I hope the second half turns out with a lot better luck than the first."

This weekend's sweep consisted entirely of one-run losses caused by weird base running, inconsistent umpiring and plays not made.

The good news: The Orioles don't have to come back.

"It's like they've got their own little 'Truman Show' over there. Everything's perfect. Everything goes right for the Yankees," said Erickson.

Maybe there should be a "Dewey" show for the Orioles

Anderson stole a career-high four bases but never scored. Against Cone, the Orioles were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Their best threat evaporated with a strange base-running incident in the fourth inning. Breaking from first base with one out, Eric Davis saw Rafael Palmeiro's fly ball hug the left-field line. Left fielder Ricky Ledee made a leaping attempt but third-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth at first signaled an out before reversing himself. Davis reacted to the out call and began to retreat. When the call changed, Davis again started for third base. Ledee's throw beat him by several feet.

Peeved by Saturday's botched ninth-inning call at third base, Miller seethed. There was nothing else he could do.

"Had we got an out call then a safe call [Saturday] the game would have been tied. Perhaps we shouldn't call things so fast," said Miller.

Batting second for the first time in recent memory, Anderson stole twice after being hit by a Cone pitch in the first inning. But neither Davis nor Palmeiro got the ball out of the infield. He stole second in the sixth but went no farther when B.J. Surhoff grounded out. He picked up his fourth steal following a two-out single in the eighth, but Davis flied out.

The Orioles have scored 35 runs without a multi-homer game during their 1-11 fade. Anderson had 11 stolen bases entering Sunday and 39 the previous two seasons combined.

"The last two years I've been on base a ton of times. But generally Raffy or Robbie will be up. I saw no reason for pushing it. One guy bats .300 every year and the other guy knocks in 100 runs. When you're struggling and it's a close game, you'll take a risk in the right situation to steal," Anderson said.

Pub Date: 7/06/98

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