Timlin closes 5-4 loss

He yields 2-run double with 2 out in 9th to turn lead into Angels win

Erickson's home hex grows `Only thing that went wrong tonight was me'

May 20, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson was matched against the right team last night, but in the wrong place. Something had to give.

As it turned out, the floor caved under closer Mike Timlin.

Brought in to protect a one-run lead in the ninth, Timlin allowed a two-out double to No. 9 hitter Andy Sheets that scored two, handing the Anaheim Angels a 5-4 victory over the Orioles before 38,557.

Winless at Camden Yards since last September, Erickson appeared to end the hex by retiring 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. He was rewarded when catcher Charles Johnson singled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh.

The rally began with a one-out double by Jeff Conine off Angels starter Omar Olivares. Reliever Mike Magnante walked Delino DeShields with two outs, and Johnson poked a single to position the Orioles (14-25) for their third straight win.

It didn't come. The Angels, who entered the game 1-20 when trailing after eight innings, strung together back-to-back hits against Timlin with one out in the ninth, the first ball never leaving the infield. Matt Walbeck struck out, but Sheets lashed a double into left-center field on a 2-1 pitch to leave Timlin with his third blown save in nine chances, and his second in the last three.

"I'll take my closer against their ninth hitter," said manager Ray Miller. "I was more concerned about Walbeck and he struck out."

Timlin hung a sinker belt-high that he likened to a batting practice fastball.

"I dropped my arm and flew open and threw it down the middle," he said. "When I let it go, I was just hoping he would swing and miss or hit it to B. J. [Surhoff]. It felt like it was 60 mph. It was a terrible pitch. I feel bad because these guys fought hard and I gave it away. That's not right.

"The only thing that went wrong tonight was me."

Though a 14-3 lifetime record against the Angels worked in Erickson's favor, he hadn't won at home since going the distance to beat them here Sept. 11. He was 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in Baltimore this season.

Given a 1-0 lead on Cal Ripken's second homer, he coughed it up in the third when Randy Velarde hit a three-run shot to left. Erickson retired the next 11 before Todd Greene dumped a two-out single into center field in the sixth, then set down another four in a row without the ball leaving the infield. He was replaced by left-hander Arthur Rhodes to begin the eighth with his pitch count at 106 and the Angels held to five hits.

Erickson's effort marked the third consecutive game an Orioles starter had given up only three runs. Sidney Ponson went seven innings in Sunday's 16-5 win in Texas, and Mike Mussina opened this series by going eight.

"I've still got a ways to go," Erickson said. "I'm not happy with the way I threw the ball. I had two strikeouts after the first two guys and didn't get another one. You've got to be able to make a lot of quality pitches consistently. I should be able to do better and I'm just not doing very well right now."

Miller wasn't nearly as harsh in his assessment. "It was an outstanding effort from Scottie. He kept us in the ballgame.

"Normally I'd stay with him but with all those lefties coming up, and Arthur warmed up, that was the right spot for him."

Olivares has gotten tougher to reach as the games wear on, allowing eight earned runs in the first three innings before last night, six over the next three, and one over the last three. He carried a 3-2 lead into the sixth, but a leadoff walk to DeShields proved costly. Johnson grounded into a force at second, and Brady Anderson stroked a single to put runners on the corners. Mike Bordick lined the next pitch up the middle to tie the score.

After Johnson's hit in the seventh, the Orioles had a chance to pad their lead when Anderson sent a grounder up the middle that Sheets dived to stop, then threw to second from behind the bag for the force. The play seemed harmless enough to the Orioles, who stranded 13, until his second heroic turn.

With one out in the second inning, Ripken drove a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats, the ball barely eluding Orlando Palmeiro's leaping attempt. It was Ripken's 386th career homer, moving him past Dwight Evans into 34th place on baseball's all-time list. It also produced his 1,515th run, good for sole possession of 49th place.

Both of Ripken's homers this season have come since his return from the disabled list last Thursday. He's hit safely in his last eight games, and his average -- at .179 when he went on the DL -- has jumped to .241. Suggestions that he might not be able to finish the season because of a painful back have quieted.

Ripken's resurgence has carried onto the field. His movements no longer restricted, he saved a run in the second inning by making a diving backhanded stop of a sharp one-hopper by Walbeck and throwing from his knees to get the force at second for the last out. Had the ball gotten past Ripken, Garret Anderson would have scored easily from second. Ripken also dived to his right to rob Greene of a hit in the ninth.

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