O's Erickson beats clock, but not opposition

Efficient O's starter cuts the Angels short except for 3 homers

2-hour loss makes him 1-6

`Pitched much better than numbers show'

May 27, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When at his best, Scott Erickson can single-handedly move a game. He's on the field before his catcher and off before his first baseman. So despite taking Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Angels, Erickson's most telling number might have been 2: 01 -- time of game.

Paired against Angels right-hander Omar Olivares, Erickson dealt an efficient hand in the opener of the Orioles' nine-game road trip. However, he was punished by three long home runs while his offensive support evaporated after Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick led off the game with a single and double. Rather than be rewarded for promptness, he was reminded of his team's inconsistency. Able to score 10 runs in one inning the previous game, the Orioles scratched for six hits -- and only three after the third inning.

"He certainly pitched much better than the numbers show," said manager Ray Miller. "He threw three bad pitches. They hit them."

But in his 10th start of the season, Erickson again suggested time is on his side. While leading the AL in innings and complete games last season, Erickson started the Orioles' three quickest games, including a 1: 53 pairing with Atlanta Braves left-hander Denny Neagle June 5. There was also a 2: 07 quickie in his first start of the season and a 2: 09 shutout against the Minnesota Twins May 11.

Tuesday night's appearance would have lasted well under two hours if Miller hadn't removed Erickson in favor of Jesse Orosco with one out in the eighth inning.

Given his disappointing record, however, Erickson didn't take consolation from the Orioles' quickest game this season.

"I'm not into whether it's good or bad. I want to win games. That's the bottom line. I'd rather give up 10 runs and win than give up two and lose," Erickson said.

Erickson (1-6) remains trapped by the worst start of his 10-year career, but at least his disastrous April has yielded to a more promising May. In five starts, he is 1-1 and has surrendered 32 hits in 36 1/3 innings compared with the previous month, when he lost all five starts while surrendering 38 hits in 25 innings. A drop in velocity particularly alarmed Miller and pitching coach Bruce Kison, but that, too, has improved.

"I'm close to where I need to be. The first month was a waste. I just have to write it off as experience," said Erickson. "Since then, I've been on a regular routine and program and it's been a lot better."

During April, Erickson "had no clue" regarding his mechanics. His right leg consistently collapsed rather than drive him toward the plate. His assortment of hard sinking pitches frequently stayed high.

At times, Erickson paused noticeably between pitches, thinking aloud to himself where certain parts of his body needed to be during his delivery. Results were predictably poor.

Tuesday night before 20,398 at Edison International Field, Erickson checked the Angels on six hits through 7 1/3 innings. He needed only 101 pitches to get 22 outs. Given a 1-0 lead, Erickson held the Angels hitless for three innings before allowing the first of two home runs to center fielder Garret Anderson with a man on and one out in the fourth.

Anderson achieved the first multi-homer game of his career two innings later, when he yanked a two-out blast to right field for a 3-1 lead.

"I got it pretty much down the middle on the two home runs," said Erickson. "You make bad pitches, you give up home runs. They don't miss them up here. That's why they're here."

Anderson's breakout added a double dose of frustration to Erickson's season. Anaheim has always been a place for the Long Beach, Calif., native to get well; Anderson had never represented much of a challenge.

Erickson's career record against the Angels fell to 14-4, and the loss was his first in seven decisions at Edison Field, formerly known as Anaheim Stadium. Anderson, who changed the game with an over-the-shoulder robbery against B. J. Surhoff with two on in the first inning, carried a .194 average and only two RBIs in 36 career at-bats vs. Erickson into the game.

True, Erickson allowed another home run in the eighth to left fielder Darin Erstad, leaving him touched for half as many homers in 7 1/3 innings as in his previous 54 innings this season. But he also allowed runners to stand in scoring position only twice all night.

"You don't win too often giving up three home runs," said Erickson, who lasted at least seven innings for the fourth time in his last five starts. "That's what happened. I can't complain about what I got."

Late O's game

Last night's

Orioles-Angels game at Edison International Field in Anaheim, Calif., did not end in time to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at http: //www.sunspot.net. For a report on last night's game and other Orioles information, call SunDial at 410-783-1800, ext. 5023 (in Anne Arundel County, call 410-268-7736, ext. 5023).

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.

Time: 10: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Juan Guzman (1-4, 5.70) vs. Angels' Ken Hill (1-3, 4.91)

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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