Fans, K.C. turn it up in 15-5 loss

Slocumb's 7-run 9th, lost series to Royals low point for 5-16 O's

Boos, white flags come out

Erickson falls to 0-5

hits elude Anderson

April 30, 1999|By JOE STRAUSS | JOE STRAUSS,SUN STAFF

A season of indignities reached its low point last night. The Orioles were forced to surrender to the Kansas City Royals, 15-5, before an announced Camden Yards crowd of 34,347.

The record will show starter Scott Erickson took the loss. But to a greater degree the Orioles were forced to swallow their pride in a game tied after five innings but reduced to a punch line by night's end. Manager Ray Miller sat motionless on the bench as his fifth pitcher, Heathcliff Slocumb, allowed a seven-run ninth inning that roused a chilled crowd from its apathy.

The 5-16 Orioles not only failed to win their first series this season, they were embarrassed by the team carrying the league's second-worst record. Once a festive place, Camden Yards now sounds like a mausoleum invaded by hoodlums.

"I'd be booing too," said Miller, whose pitching staff's ERA rose to 6.84 in the loss. "We're putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the offense -- and the manager."

Erickson (0-5) has rarely been confused with a quick starter. He is 11-23 lifetime in April despite winning three games in the first month each of the last two seasons.

Still there are enough differences this season to cause concern within an organization that last May signed the innings monster to a five-year, $32 million extension. Like Juan Guzman, Erickson remains trapped by his flawed mechanics. Once the master of the quality start, Erickson has lost each of his five appearances while allowing 49 base runners in 25 innings. Last night's four walks left him with 11, only two fewer than his strikeout total.

Miller and pitching coach Bruce Kison remain perplexed. Working on three days' rest last Saturday, Erickson gave his first quality start of the season, allowing four hits in seven innings of a 3-0 loss to the Oakland A's and journeyman Mike Oquist. Last night was supposed to serve as confirmation of a positive trend, but instead it resurrected old questions.

While Erickson has rediscovered the velocity he lacked last week against Tampa Bay, he has yet to reclaim his mechanics.

Erickson thrives on a heavy sinking pitch that produces the game's highest percentage of ground balls. But he has lacked the attribute since spring training. Miller has cited a "collapsing" back leg, which suggests a lack of push from the mound.

"After the first inning tonight I thought I was going to stick it [to them]. I have that confidence every time on the mound. Then [in the second] I make two good pitches and they've got two runs," he said. "I'm making one bad pitch and it's getting smoked."

The Orioles gave Erickson a first-inning lead then worked to give him two ties. None survived the next half-inning.

Jermaine Dye, the oft-injured Atlanta Braves castoff, added to his impressive start by tormenting both Erickson and center fielder Brady Anderson. It was Anderson who gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead by leading off the game with a homer.

Anderson shook himself from a 5-for-33 skid with two hits. However, he failed to run down two of Dye's three hits, leading to a second-inning RBI triple and a sixth-inning two-run double.

Dye's triple scored cleanup hitter Johnny Damon for a brief 1-1 tie. Scott Pose broke the tie with a foul fly that B. J. Surhoff caught two steps beyond the left-field line, scoring Dye.

A one-out walk to catcher Charles Johnson proved the catalyst for the Orioles' tying run in the third inning. Anderson followed with a one-out double off the scoreboard and shortstop Mike Bordick interrupted a 1-for-18 funk by driving a sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track. The inning offered even more promise when Surhoff walked, but slumping right fielder Albert Belle began a frustrating night by popping to shallow right field. Belle, who later walked in the 15th of 21 games, failed to advance any of six runners.

The Royals grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth after Joe Randa led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a right-side grounder. With two outs, Dye lined a single.

Benefiting from shortstop Steve Scarsone's error on a double-play ball, the Orioles forced a second tie in the fifth. Delino DeShields led off with a single and stole second. Anderson walked with one out to fill a vacant base. Bordick, suddenly potent against left-handed pitchers but struggling vs. right-handers, grounded to short against Jeff Suppan (1-3). Scarsone hurried for two but got none when he botched the play. Given a chance to break open a lead, the Orioles settled for an unfulfilling tie.

Surhoff grounded slowly to second base. A sharper hit ball would have doomed him, but Surhoff was able to beat out the relay, tumbling over the bag. With runners at first and third, Belle struck out looking.

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