Erickson stopped short of .500

4 2/3-inning outing halts rebound from 0-5 April

August 04, 1999|By ROCH KUBATKO | ROCH KUBATKO,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Pitcher Scott Erickson always has been a difficult read for Orioles manager Ray Miller. What looks like scuffling one minute, where the ball stays up and line drives are sprayed in all directions, can turn so suddenly to another string of easy outs.

Miller waited for the transformation Monday night, but it never came. Five straight Oakland batters reached in the fifth inning, and Erickson was gone. So, too, was a winning streak that had extended to six consecutive decisions.

Erickson's attempt to reach .500 for the first time this season ended in a 7-1 loss to the Athletics before another sparse crowd at Network Associates Coliseum. He allowed two homers, including a three-run shot by Miguel Tejada in the second inning that wiped out a 1-0 lead, and was beaten for the first time since June 4 against Philadelphia. At 4 2/3 innings, it also was his shortest outing since May 30 in Oakland, when he lasted just 2 2/3 innings.

"It's like the whole year. We go as our starting pitching goes," said Miller.

With Erickson off his game, the Orioles went in the wrong direction.

He had retired the first four batters before Matt Stairs singled with one out in the second. He got four more ground-ball outs after Tejada had taken him deep, but Stairs led off the fourth with a homer. He later had another stretch of four consecutive outs -- the ball again not leaving the infield -- but Jason Giambi and John Jaha doubled to spark a three-run rally in the fifth and chase Erickson from the game.

"Scottie didn't have it and right now we're not swinging the bats. It's not a good combination," Miller said.

"He made some good pitches. He struck out some people among those hits. He made people look bad. You kick yourself for maybe staying with him one hitter too long, but Scottie's been one of the better pitchers in the league the last six times. I tried to give him a chance to get out of the inning."

Erickson never seemed capable of shaking trouble in the season's first two months. He lost his first five starts, the low point coming at Tampa Bay on April 20 when he surrendered eight hits and five runs in 1 2/3 innings. By the time Philadelphia had raked him for 11 hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, he was stuck with a 1-8 record and still searching for the cure to his flawed mechanics.

Monday's defeat, he said, wasn't like revisiting that horrid period.

"I just got a few balls up and they hit them pretty good," he said.

Asked if he was concerned by how he threw, or considered it more of an aberration, Erickson said, "I never worry about any loss. You go out there and do the best you can. It was just a bad game. It's tough to win when you give up seven runs.

"I think it's more likely to continue in a positive upswing for me."

Not if he has to face Oakland again. The A's, who visit Baltimore for a three-game series in September, are 3-0 against Erickson this season. His ERA is 10.66 when facing them, 5.23 in his other 20 starts.

"I never even took that into consideration," he said. "Anything can happen on any given day. You go through streaks."

Erickson had a nice one intact before arriving here.

"He just got some balls up in the zone and they pretty much capitalized," said catcher Charles Johnson. "They took advantage of the balls that weren't located. Lately he's been locating real well. He's been staying ahead of the hitters. [Monday] he got behind and had to come down the middle of the plate and they took advantage."

Late O's game

Last night's Orioles-Athletics game at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, 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).

Calling all bats After averaging 5.75 runs, 11.4 hits and 4.0 extra-base hits a game in a 7-1 streak from July 20 to 28, the Orioles saw their bats turn silent during their five-game skid going into last night:

D..........Opp.....R.......H........X............WP (Rec)

7/29......Tex......1........3........2.............Morgan (11-6)

7/30......Sea.....4........7........2.............Meche (2-1)

7/31......Sea.....2........8........2.............Moyer (10-5)

8/1........Sea.....1........8........0.............P. Abbott (2-0)

8/2........Oak.....1........4........2.............Appier (10-9)

X - extra-base hits

Pub Date: 8/04/99

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