Erickson tames Tigers

Baines' 3-run shot, 2-run 6th lift O's, 5-4

August 08, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Scott Erickson continued his second-chance season last night with help from designated hitter Harold Baines, closer Mike Timlin and a redemptive sixth inning. Given only one chance, the Detroit Tigers failed to hold a brief lead as the Orioles reclaimed a 5-4 win before 48,505 at Camden Yards.

Erickson (8-9) lifted his career record to 16-3 against the Tigers by stringing three dominant innings before two troubled ones that briefly turned a three-run lead into a one-run deficit. A fourth RBI by Baines and seldom-seen left fielder Jeff Conine's sacrifice fly accounted for a turnaround two-run sixth inning.

After 24 starts, Erickson may not have enough time to abruptly deflate this year's 5.74 ERA. But he has at least kept alive his chance for a fifth consecutive 13-win season. Had this season started May 9, he would be 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA.

"To start the season 1-8 is ridiculous. I wasn't throwing the way I was capable of. It's irritating," Erickson said. "You only get so many shots at going out there. To waste half of them because you're mechanically messed up isn't good. It's nice to end on a good note, but it's more important to be consistent all year long."

Erickson, who pitched his way off the trade market last month, is 7-1 since June 4, his last loss at Camden Yards. Though he is no longer lost on the mound, neither is he comfortable with his standing.

"Eight wins isn't that good no matter how you look at it. You've got to figure 2 1/2 or three wins a month -- half your starts," he said. "No matter whether you win 15 games a year or not, that's got to be a goal for most starters. Having eight wins in August isn't good. Obviously, not everybody's carrying part of the load, and I'm one of them."

Resuming his chase of a career season at 40, Baines provided Erickson a 3-0 first-inning lead against rookie Tigers starter Dave Borkowski (0-3) with a three-run home run after Will Clark and Albert Belle extended the rally with two-out singles.

Baines' home run was his 22nd this season and 370th of his career. Combined with his bases-loaded walk five innings later, he matched his RBI count since the All-Star break in three plate appearances. Erickson dropped the early 3-0 lead because of a pair of two-run innings. The first resulted from a two-run homer by Tigers third baseman Dean Palmer in the fourth. The second stemmed from a messy fifth in which Erickson resisted throwing anything but fastballs. After getting two outs, he surrendered three walks and a go-ahead, two-run double to left fielder Juan Encarnacion.

"I think when Palmer hit the home run off a slider, then 42 of the next 40 pitches were fastballs," said manager Ray Miller. "He got away from the slider because he made a mistake with it or he didn't want to throw it or whatever. Once you get away from a pitch and start overthrowing the other one that concerns you a little bit. The walks concern me a little bit. He's walked a lot more than he's ever walked before."

"Sometimes you get in a groove of throwing the same pitch over and over and every pitch has to be better than the last one," said Erickson, who equaled his season high -- also against Detroit -- with five walks. "It's a strange mental thing that's tough to get out of sometimes."

The Orioles regained the lead in the sixth inning with Borkowski's and Baines' help. Back-to-back leadoff singles by Anderson and Mike Bordick preceded a walk to Clark that loaded the bases with none out.

After a foulout by Belle, Baines worked Borkowski for a full count. The rookie's fastball narrowly missed outside to give Baines his fourth RBI and the Orioles a 4-4 tie. Conine followed with a fly ball to deep center field that easily scored Bordick with the go-ahead run.

"I screwed it up. Four out of my five starts, they have a lead for me and I go out the next inning and give it back," Borkowski said. "I've never been through something like this. Lately, all I've been doing is letting my team down."

Erickson didn't bungle his second chance against what has been his favorite foe. Even in bad times Erickson has almost always found a way against the Tigers.

He snapped his career-worst 0-5 start to this season with a 5-0 shutout at Tiger Stadium May 9. Having allowed 47 hits in his first 32 innings, he checked the Tigers on five.

Miller had seen enough after Erickson used 111 pitches to clear seven innings. Scott Kamieniecki came on to bridge the eighth before Timlin started the ninth. Extending a positive trend, Timlin retired the side in order with an assist from Clark's stop of Luis Polonia's one-out rocket.

"There's a hitter up there, but I don't see him. Charles [Johnson] is the catcher, but I really don't see him, either. I'm seeing a target inside the glove and my whole focus is right there," Timlin said.

Since going a month without a save, Timlin has converted his last five chances, including two protecting one-run leads.

"When I come into a game now, the game's over. I'm attacking. I'm throwing strikes. I know I'm going to hit the glove with every pitch I have," said Timlin, who recorded his 14th save.

Orioles today

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 1: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Tigers' Brian Moehler (8-11, 5.54) vs. O's Ricky Bones (0-3, 6.39)

Tickets: About 4,000 remain

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