Erickson, O's cool off Texas, 9-3 Eighth straight win caps 2-game wipeout of prior nemesis

Alomar collects four hits

Starter becomes team's 1st double-digit winner

July 17, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers emerged from The Ballpark's first-base dugout last night and were greeted by an unstoppable force of nature that threatened to suck the air from their lungs.

And did anyone mention it was pretty warm?

While the Texas flatlands contend with a month set on broil, the Orioles continue to justify the faith of those who still see them as more than second-half schedule-filler. The Orioles didn't just beat the Rangers last night before 45,171 fan-wavers, they capped a two-game wipeout of a club that embarrassed them earlier this season. Generating 11 hits in the first five innings, the Orioles cruised to a 9-3 decision behind Scott Erickson (10-7), who became the team's first double-digit winner.

The Orioles now enjoy a season-high eight-game win streak. Even before their pummeling of Rangers starter Aaron Sele (12-6), who needed 106 pitches to stagger through 4 1/3 innings, general manager Pat Gillick was moved to declare that this clubhouse would not be taken apart prematurely.

Second baseman Roberto Alomar seemingly reacted with four hits, two runs and a stolen base, providing a reminder of how he can be one of the game's most spectacular talents. Brady Anderson contributed a pair of bunt singles among a three-hit performance.

"He's a great player," Miller said of Alomar. "When he's focused ++ and playing he's one of the few people when they're on top of their game they can control a baseball game."

The Orioles are seemingly capable of anything right now except granting media access as required by Major League Baseball. After closing the clubhouse for 20 minutes afterward to everyone except friends, equipment reps and family members, no players who factored in the game were readily available.

"I'm always hoping to get better," Miller said when asked about Gillick's pre-game comments. "Like I've said, I just want to take it a day at a time. That's what I've told the ballclub. It's a good club. We finally got people healthy. We're playing good baseball right now."

After spotting the Rangers a 1-0 first-inning lead on an unearned run, the Orioles put together a four-run third inning in which they sent 10 hitters to the plate. Catcher Lenny Webster fattened a three-game breakout with a two-out, two-run double to provide Erickson a 4-1 lead.

Erickson never gave the Rangers an opening despite sieve-like support. The Orioles committed three errors in the first six innings -- one each by B.J. Surhoff, Cal Ripken and Rich Becker. Surhoff's rare kick of a Mark McLemore single gave the Rangers a run before Erickson got his first out. But rather than suffer another horrific outing like his previous two against the Rangers this season -- he entered 0-2 with a 12.10 ERA against them -- Erickson smothered a slumping attack.

Dysfunctional for so long, the Orioles' starting pitching and hitting have enjoyed a fist-in-glove relationship during the second half. Erickson provided the eighth quality start in the Orioles' last 12 games.

The two-game series not only produced 37 hits, it hiked the team average to a season-high .275.

"When we get pitching and make the plays, which we did tonight, we can throw some offense on the board," said Miller. "Success breeds more success. You get a bunch of hits, it takes pressure off everybody. We're swinging good and we caught a couple clubs that their bullpen's a little bit beat up."

Held scoreless for two innings, the Orioles pounded the frazzled Sele with five hits, a Ripken walk and a hit batter during a 39-pitch third inning. Alomar contributed a leadoff double. Anderson then shocked the Rangers' infield by dropping a bunt for a single. From there, the inning mushroomed around an RBI single by Eric Davis, a two-strike bouncer through the middle by Surhoff and Webster's double to left field.

The Orioles lost an out on the bases in the fourth inning but still managed a fifth run. After Anderson became the first Oriole caught stealing this month, a two-out walk to Rafael Palmeiro was followed by a Surhoff ground-rule double.

Ripken, who entered in an 11-for-56 funk, drove home the blue-collar run by grounding a ball between third base and short.

Shortstop Kevin Elster gloved the roller, spun and threw a strike but couldn't catch Ripken, who reacted to first base umpire Larry Barnett's safe call with a clap of his hands.

Bad defense finally benefited the Orioles in the sixth inning. Mike Bordick led off with a single. He then created havoc on Alomar's single to right field. Bordick challenged Juan Gonzalez and won when the slugger's throw bounced off Bordick's leg into the Orioles' dugout. The error gave Bordick home plate and moved Alomar to third.

Erickson dripped from the triple-digit temperature but never flagged. He took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning but lost a run after Tom Goodwin legged a double that began with Alomar's inability to backhand his grounder. McLemore singled to score Goodwin.

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