White Sox rip fading O's again Four-run first inning does in Erickson in fourth straight loss, 7-4

Otanez fractures wrist

Palmeiro hits 40th, fourth Oriole to do it

August 28, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Good news for Orioles fans: Only 29 games until shopping season begins.

Another starting pitcher, a catching upgrade, perhaps a couple holdover outfielders and potential replacements at first and second base. Focused on a day-by-day approach before their three-day junket to Comiskey Park, the Orioles left town last night looking ahead to a September with only contrived meaning.

Manager Ray Miller gave it his best shot in a decidedly one-sided, 10-minute meeting before his team's 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox last night that completed a crushing three-game sweep by the South Siders. Miller referred to the meeting as a call to "refocus" on the leftover schedule. His audience found little compelling. What followed was what one might expect to see from a veteran team proficient in addition and subtraction.

That the Boston Red Sox also lost last night carried little weight. The Orioles remain 10 games behind.

Personal milestones now rule. Pending free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro reached a career quest by hitting his 40th home run in the eighth inning. The Orioles outhit the White Sox, 11-8, but were rarely in the game.

The loss was the Orioles' fourth straight and sixth in seven games. They were swept for the first time in the second half. A week ago the Orioles thought they could see light at the end of the tunnel. Now they again seem to be feeling for bottom.

"We go home and start with a clean slate," said Miller. "These last three days haven't been what we wanted, but we have to get past that."

The Orioles lost here behind Mike Mussina, Juan Guzman and last night Scott Erickson. Erickson completed the washout by surrendering a four-run first inning barely 24 hours after Guzman was crushed by a six-run second.

The Orioles led for a total of 1 1/2 innings and were outscored 25-13 in the series. One of the league's youngest teams, the White Sox lead the season series 6-2. A depleted clubhouse begins six-game homestand beginning tonight against the Kansas City Royals.

Miller said afterward that he will likely shut down Eric Davis for several days because of his painful hamstrings. Preceding Palmeiro around the bases on the home run, Davis ran slowly and stiff-legged and was nearly passed by the first baseman. His sore right elbow has become a green light to opposing base runners as well.

"I'll come to the park tomorrow. If I can play, I'll play," said Davis.

The Orioles continue to look for bodies. Rookie right fielder Willis Otanez fractured his left wrist making a diving attempt at Albert Belle's first-inning fly ball. Otanez got a glove on it but lost control when his glove snagged the turf, doubling the wrist backward. The bone was set and placed in a cast but Otanez will undergo a further examination today by team orthopedic Dr. Michael Jacobs. Two starts into his major-league career Otanez will go on the disabled list. Danny Clyburn will be summoned from Triple-A Rochester.

Brady Anderson remains addled by a frayed right patella tendon. Catcher Chris Hoiles confirmed he is suffering from chronic lower back pain that occasionally causes him numbness in his left leg. A disk condition is suspected.

Meanwhile, the Orioles' season shows few signs of getting well.

Miller urged the club to "refocus" during the meeting and later expressed satisfaction with the effort he received. The Orioles managed double-digit hits for only the second time in seven games.

During the seven-game skid the Orioles are batting only .209 while barely scoring 3.5 runs per game.

"We smoked a lot of balls right at people tonight," said Miller. "That's about all you can do."

Palmeiro put his signature on the game with the Orioles trailing 7-2. Until he reached Sox reliever Bob Howry, the Orioles' production had come from a bases-loaded double play and Rich Becker's second home run in three games. Frustrated the last three seasons by home run counts of 39, 39 and 38, Palmeiro became the fourth player in Orioles history to hit 40 in a season.

"It's a good feeling, especially because I've come so close the last three years," Palmeiro said. "It means a lot to me."

On pace for more than 45 homers, Palmeiro offers no apologies for being driven by statistics. More than 130 games into a season, he continues to push for a career season. "It's the way it is," he says. "Everybody has to motivate themselves. Nobody wants to go out and get embarrassed."

Unfortunately, they came very close against the nowhere White Sox. The backsliding Orioles (69-64) left no doubt about their direction. Rookie left-hander Jim Parque controlled them while Erickson (14-10) fell victim to an out-of-control four-run first inning. It was the third time in as many games that the Orioles allowed four or more runs in an inning.

The White Sox loaded the bases in the first without putting a ball in play. Erickson walked Ray Durham, hit Mike Caruso and

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