Royals cut short Erickson, O's, 9-6 He lasts only 3 innings, yields 3 HRs, 5-0 deficit

August 01, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On the same night the Orioles struck a deal to solidify their rotation, the club's most dependable starter was drilled full of holes again.

Trying to lift his team three games above .500 for the first time since late April, Scott Erickson was rocked for three home runs in as many innings last night, part of a 9-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals before 25,007 at Kauffman Stadium that wasn't complete until the Orioles had scored five in the ninth to breathe some life into a still performance.

Gone after 65 pitches, it was Erickson's shortest outing since he went 2 2/3 innings in Texas on April 17. It also came hours after the Orioles (55-54) had acquired Juan Guzman from Toronto, an attractive beginning to what became an ugly mess.

Erickson (11-9) hadn't given up this many homers since May 6 in Cleveland, and hadn't lost consecutive games since later that month. The league leader in innings pitched, he's totaled eight over his last two starts, plagued both times by a mechanical flaw that causes his body to move too fast through his delivery and leaves his arm dragging.

"Scottie obviously didn't have it," manager Ray Miller said. "Everything was up and they were hitting them."

With two off days next week, Erickson will have extra time to work through his problems. Three side sessions are in order, he said, before his next start Friday in Minnesota.

"When your mechanics get a little off, you start thinking more about that than where you're throwing the ball," he said. "I didn't get the ball down. When I did, it was too low. And when I threw a strike, it was belt-high."

The defeat was the Orioles' fourth in 21 games since the All-Star break and put them 8 1/2 games behind Boston, which was playing in Anaheim late last night, for the wild card. It also was TTC decisive enough to bring wholesale changes in the sixth inning, with Miller removing Rafael Palmeiro and Cal Ripken, switches that plopped Chris Hoiles at first base and recent call-up P. J. Forbes into the cleanup spot.

No combination would be enough to inflict any real damage to Royals starter Jose Rosado, the loudest exception a 396-foot homer by Eric Davis in the sixth that extended his hitting streak to a career-high 18 games. Davis has four homers in his last four games, and 10 of his 21 since the break.

Hoiles added a two-run shot off reliever Jim Pittsley in the ninth to begin a comeback that included five walks and Forbes' first major-league hit, an RBI single that brought up Jeffrey Hammonds as the tying run with two outs. He popped to shallow center.

The uprising came much too late for Erickson, who had beaten the Royals twice this season.

Erickson retired the first five batters before serving up Jeff King's 20th home run. Just as Erickson struggled to put away hitters Sunday, when he lasted only five innings in a 10-4 loss to Seattle, King's blast into the left-field seats came on a 1-2 pitch.

Larry Sutton followed with a smash up the middle that deflected off Erickson's foot and rolled to the left side of the infield. Erickson's hurried throw sailed wide of first base, allowing Sutton to take second, and the error proved costly when catcher Sal Fasano singled to center for a 2-0 lead.

The league's top ground-ball pitcher was taken deep again in the third inning, this time by Johnny Damon, who launched one into the bullpen in right. One out later, Jose Offerman extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a single, and Dean Palmer sent the next pitch arcing over the right-center-field fence for his 23rd homer, stretching the lead to 5-0.

Erickson allowed two more singles in the inning before Fasano popped out. By then, the Royals had sent 17 batters to the plate. Eight of 11 had reached safely, beginning with King's homer.

Miller had seen enough, calling Doug Drabek to begin the fourth. It was Drabek's first relief appearance since August 1989, when he gained his only career victory out of the bullpen. Last night, he was just trying to stop the bleeding.

The Royals kept hammering away, though, getting two runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth on Palmer's second homer.

"Even though I was terrible, I would have liked to have gone back out there and worked on it against batters," Erickson said. "I don't mind taking the lumps. That's the best way to work on it, against hitters."

Rosado (6-8) was making his fourth appearance against the Orioles, the others coming in relief during the first two weeks of the season. He was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA against them after going 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts last year.

He set down the first eight batters, striking out three, before Mike Bordick reached on an infield hit. Palmeiro lined a single to right in the fourth, and Ripken singled to open the fifth. Rosado also allowed Davis' homer and a single to B. J. Surhoff over seven innings.

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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