Orioles add Royals to hit list, 7-1

1-2 punch of hitting, starting pitching lifts O's to 5th win in row

Erickson's 1st '99 home win

Bordick hits 3-run HR

hot Ripken: 2 hits, RBIs

June 15, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles started their micro-homestand last night as they had ended an eventful six-game road trip on Sunday, by punishing an opponent with equal parts starting pitching and offense. The result was a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals behind Scott Erickson (3-8) before 37,501 at Camden Yards.

Erickson came within one inning of the Orioles' third complete game in four games but instead settled for his first home win since Sept. 11. He previously had struggled for an 0-4 record and 6.41 ERA at home, largely because of his inability to recapture the heavy assortment that allowed him to lead the American League in innings pitched last year.

The night's most persuasive statistic was Erickson's 17 ground-ball outs in eight innings and a knack for managing trouble.

"We've got gold [gloves] in the middle of that field and he was able to put it to good use tonight," said pitching coach Bruce Kison.

The 26-36 Orioles supported him with shortstop Mike Bordick's three-run homer, two more RBIs from a rejuvenated Cal Ripken and for a second straight night at least one hit from every starter.

Suddenly the Orioles find themselves in possession of their second five-game winning streak this season. After entering Atlanta in last place, they can now almost touch third. They've won their past four by a score of 40-4.

Erickson's start extended the rotation's recovery. In the past nine games, the starters are 5-0 with seven quality starts and a 1.83 ERA. The bullpen has pitched only three innings the last four games, including an uneventful ninth from Mike Timlin last night.

"We've still got a long way to go," said Erickson. "You take a look after you get to .500, but we're still 10 games under .500. You can't worry about who's in first where we're at."

A night after the Orioles romped to a franchise-record 22 runs and 25 hits vs. the Atlanta Braves, their offensive exploits continued to mount. With a first-inning single, left fielder B. J. Surhoff became the first Oriole since Rafael Palmeiro in 1994 to build two 15-game hitting streaks in the same season. Ripken also performed the feat in 1992.

Surhoff has hit in 30 of his last 33 games, his previous 15-game streak coming May 9-23. Surhoff remains among the league's top five in average and is one behind New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for the league lead in hits.

The Orioles reached Royals starter Kevin Appier for all the runs Erickson would need in the second inning. Unlike the previous two games when they punished the Braves with seven home runs, the Orioles went ahead 3-0 on a foiled double play, an opposite-field single by rookie catcher Mike Figga and a shallow sacrifice fly.

After walking for the first of three times, designated hitter Harold Baines celebrated his first action in a week by going first to third on Will Clark's fifth hit in six at-bats. The extra base brought Ripken an RBI when he chugged out a ground ball for his seventh RBI in two games.

Second baseman Delino DeShields extended a recent offensive run by singling Ripken to second. Figga, making only his fourth appearance since the Orioles claimed him off waivers on June 3, singled to score Ripken for his first major-league RBI.

From third base, DeShields successfully challenged Royals right fielder Jermaine Dye on a shallow fly ball.

Only weeks ago a 3-0 lead in Erickson's hands was nothing safe. Hostage to big innings for most of this season, his heavy sinking fastball deserted him. A five-game losing streak and a 9.49 ERA greeted him in April and he entered last night with a 6.69 ERA.

Recent indicators have suggested something more positive. A June 4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies occurred because of a frustrating second inning in which he was bled for four runs.

At Florida last Wednesday, Erickson broke through for his first win since May 14, a seven-inning, five-hit effort that more closely resembled his reputation as one of the game's pre-eminent ground ball pitchers.

The Royals encountered the same pitcher last night.

Erickson used the ground ball as his prop to escape several rallies, the first after second baseman Carlos Febles and center fielder Carlos Beltran began the game with back-to-back infield singles. Erickson escaped, however, by getting the Royals' fastest player, left fielder Johnny Damon, to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

"That was big. It looked like they could put three on the board there, but I lucked out," Erickson said. "You've got to be lucky and good. You need balls hit at people. I've said that a number of times. It doesn't matter how good a pitch it is, if a guy reaches base it's not good."

He stranded runners in scoring position in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings. He got only two strikeouts in his eight innings.

Bordick gave him a six-run cushion in the fourth inning when he turned on Appier for a two-out, three-run homer. The blast left Bordick with 16 RBIs in his last 30 games with an at-bat.

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