O's bats hit air free fall hits 8

White Sox only allow unearned run, ride Belle HR to 4-1 win

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

The Orioles spent the second half trying to remain in the wild-card chase, bucking the odds as they bypassed all but one team ahead of them. Now, after being swept in consecutive series and returning to the pack, they're just fighting to stay above .500.

At least they went down swinging last night, bringing the tying run to the plate in each of the last three innings. But it wasn't enough. It hasn't been for quite some time.

The Orioles were limited to six hits and an unearned run over seven-plus innings by Chicago's James Baldwin, losing to him for the third time this season, 4-1, before 40,056 at Camden Yards.

Witnessed by their smallest crowd since early April, the defeat was the Orioles' eighth in a row and 10th in 11 games. For anyone still counting, they also fell 12 behind Boston for the wild card, and settled a little deeper into fourth place in the AL East behind idle Toronto.

"Just because the situation doesn't look good, nobody wants to embarrass themselves," said right fielder Rich Becker. "Everybody wants to play hard until the end of the season. Then, you see where you're at."

The Orioles (69-68) might be in a better position if they had scored more than four runs over the past three games. "We just have to push on," said manager Ray Miller. "We've got to score more runs, but the bats are dead.

"You can have another clubhouse meeting and yell and scream if you want, but I'm getting good defense, the pitchers are doing the best they can. We're just not scoring. It's kind of hard to create runs when you don't have any speed, or the guys who do have speed are banged up. They feel just as bad as I do, believe me."

Baldwin (9-5) retired 11 in a row after a one-out single by Becker in the second inning. He escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh, then left in the eighth after allowing an infield hit and a walk. The bullpen finished up, and the White Sox had their seventh win in nine games against the Orioles, whose last gasp ended when pinch hitter Eric Davis flew to the warning track in right with two on.

The Orioles had lost three consecutive one-run games until last night, when Scott Erickson couldn't keep it that close.

Making his second start on three days' rest, Erickson (14-11) was removed after an infield hit by Mike Caruso leading off the eighth. Last season, he thrived under such conditions, going 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA. But in his previous attempt pitching on short rest this year, on May 6 in Cleveland, he was raked for seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

He didn't absorb the same beating last night, but his margin for error was minuscule.

Erickson got two quick outs in the first inning, then walked Frank Thomas, a career .357 hitter against him. Not a bad move except it brought up Albert Belle, who was batting .404 against him.

Erickson tried to get a 2-2 slider past Belle, but he took it the other way, clearing the scoreboard in right. It was Belle's 41st homer, matching Thomas' club record, and his 14th lifetime at Camden Yards, the most by an opponent. Belle had been tied with Boston's Mo Vaughn for that distinction.

Erickson retired the next seven batters before Thomas reached on an infield hit. This time, Belle grounded sharply up the middle, where shortstop Mike Bordick made a diving stop to begin a double play.

Greg Norton led off the fifth with a home run, jumping on the first pitch. Consecutive singles by Ray Durham and Caruso and a fielder's choice grounder by Thomas extended the lead to 4-1 in the sixth.

The Orioles' only run, in the second inning, came gift-wrapped by the White Sox's defense. It was the most damage they could do against Baldwin, who's 6-1 against them lifetime.

B. J. Surhoff, in the throes of a 2-for-33 slump, reached with one out on a throwing error by Caruso, the shortstop's 33rd this season after making the jump from Single-A. Lenny Webster followed with a double to right, his ninth hit in his last 21 at-bats.

Magglio Ordonez tried to freeze Surhoff by raising his glove as if preparing to make the catch, then turning to play the ball off the scoreboard. He didn't anticipate a high hop and failed to barehand the ball as Surhoff came around.

Becker singled to right, but Bordick grounded into a double play. The Orioles wouldn't get another base runner until Brady Anderson singled with one out in the sixth. Two fly balls later, Baldwin was back in the dugout and about to improve to 7-2 in 12 starts since rejoining the rotation on June 20.

"It seems like we hit the ball hard off him and don't get hits," Miller said.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: White Sox's Jim Parque (4-5, 5.12) vs. O's Doug Drabek (6-9, 7.07)

Tickets: 8,400 remain

AL wild-card race

.. .. .. .. .. . ..W-L .. .. .. . Pct. .. ..GB

Boston .. .. .. ..80-55.. .. ... .593 .. .. --

Texas .. .. .. .. 73-64.. .. ... .533 .. .. .8

Toronto ... .. .. 71-66.. .. ... .518 .. ...10

Orioles .. .. ... 69-68.. .. ... .504 .. ...12

Ringing Belle

White Sox slugger Albert Belle has been on a tear in the 51 games since the All-Star break, including his two-run home run last night. Stopping with his first-inning home run, here's how his second-half surge would project over a full season and his career high in each category:

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Career

.. .. .. .. .. .. .half .. .. ..Proj .. .. .. .high

At-bats .. .. .. .. 192 .. .. .. 610 .. .. .. ..634

Hits .. .. .. .. ... 74 .. .. .. 235 .. .. .. ..187

Average.. .. .. .. .385 .. .. .. .-.. .. .. .. .357

Doubles .. .. .. .. .17 .. .. .. .54 .. .. .. .. 52

Triples .. .. .. .. ..1 .. .. .. ..3 .. .. .. .. .4

Homers .. .. .. .. ..23 .. .. .. .73 .. .. .. .. 50

RBIs .. .. .. .. .. .55 .. .. .. 175 .. .. .. ..148

Runs .. .. .. .. .. .44 .. .. .. 140 .. .. .. ..124

Walks .. .. .. .. ...20 .. .. .. .64 .. .. .. ...99

Pub Date: 9/01/98

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