Orioles slip past Royals

With Bordick's help, Erickson wins, 4-2, improves to 10-10

Right-hander goes 8

3-run 3rd, May's fly account for offense

August 24, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An occasionally complicated and often frustrating season simplified itself last night for Scott Erickson: Throw strikes and make the opponent beat the ball toward Mike Bordick.

Pitching most of the night with no room for error, Erickson (10-10) conspired with his defense for a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals before a passionate gathering of 14,222 at Kauffman Stadium.

For the first time this season, Erickson can savor the glow of being a .500 pitcher. He only need glance over his right shoulder to discover one reason.

"It's been awhile," Erickson said of his break-even experience. "It's been a battle. It feels good getting there."

A three-run third inning against Royals rookie starter Dan Reichert (2-2) and pinch hitter Derrick May's ninth-inning sacrifice fly were enough to overcome four Royals pitchers and three outs lost on the bases.

Erickson, who retains a chance for a fifth straight season of at least 13 wins, snapped bats, threw strikes and turned over a two-run lead to Mike Timlin. The Orioles' closer pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 16th save and seventh conversion in a row.

Erickson's struggle began with an 0-5 April, a 1-8 start in his 12 starts and two-month rummage for mechanics that abandoned him during spring training. His relationship with his personal catcher, Lenny Webster, also terminated with Webster's release.

Ironically, Erickson has thrived in his absence, going 9-2 since June 4 and completing at least seven innings in eight of his last 10 starts.

During his last 11 appearances, Erickson has enjoyed a 4-0 July; extended a winning streak to six games, second-longest of his career; reclaimed his standing as the league's most prolific ground-ball pitcher, and pitched his second shutout this season.

"I'll take 10-10 given the circumstances," he said. "Now I look at it as a new season. I've got nine starts to go to do something with."

Erickson is fond of saying that the game leaves his control as soon as the ball leaves his hand. If so, he should credit his infield, especially Bordick, with helping him toward eight efficient innings interrupted only by fits of defensive brilliance.

Bordick contributed 12 chances, several of them befitting a Gold Glove candidate, in helping Erickson claim his ninth win in 11 decisions.

"Bordy was just absolutely outstanding," said manager Ray Miller.

"I feel they didn't really hit the ball hard," said Erickson. "There were some balls that took [Bordick] right to the limit, but were within his reach. He did a great job." Erickson struck out one and walked one.

Center fielder Brady Anderson made a sprawling catch to rob Jermaine Dye of a probable RBI double in the first inning.

Twice, Bordick ranged far to take away hits and in the fifth inning turned first baseman Mike Sweeney's line drive into a jam-ending double play after the Royals had put runners on first and second.

Orioles second baseman Delino DeShields, who was handcuffed several times by short hops, helped prevent a tie game in the fourth inning by ranging behind second base and throwing across his body to rob Dye of a leadoff single.

Had Dye reached, third baseman Joe Randa's one-out, two-run home run might have denied Erickson a decision.

Erickson got his final piece of defensive assistance in the seventh inning after rookie second baseman Ray Holbert led off with a single.

Rather than have Johnny Damon bunt the tying run into scoring position, Royals manager Tony Muser allowed him to loft a fly out to center.

Suddenly desperate for second base, Muser called upon Holbert to attempt his first major-league stolen base against one of the game's top arms. The result was predictable: Charles Johnson easily threw Holbert, snuffing the rally.

"It's fun to be a big part of it," said Bordick, who produced four putouts and eight assists. "It's fun diving and sliding around out there. The most important thing is getting a win. Whether it's me or Delino [making plays], what's best is making good things happen."

"He should get a Gold Glove. I don't know how you go about getting one, but all I can do is talk about it," said Miller.

Bordick would rather not discuss what such recognition would mean. During a disappointing season warped by collective underachievement, he refuses to discuss individual acclaim. Others are less inhibited.

"You go out and hit .300 and everybody realizes how good a defensive player you are," said Miller. "He's having as good a year offensively as he's ever had.

"They all talk about A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez]. They all talk about [Derek] Jeter. Just check the fielding percentages and the chances handled. He's at the top of everything.

"It's amazing when I talk to other managers. A lot of them tell me, `If you don't want your shortstop, I'll take him.' And there are teams that have pretty good shortstops that say that."

The 56-68 Orioles continue to dominate teams in their own predicament. Last night's win lifted them to 5-2 against the Royals and 35-25 against teams with losing records this season.

Conversely, they have gone only 21-43 against winning teams, including 7-20 against those teams ahead of them within their division. They now find themselves in a run of 27 games in which 23 will be against opponents with losing records.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Kansas City Royals

Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time: 8: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Jason Johnson (4-7, 6.44) vs. Royals' Blake Stein (0-0, 3.71)

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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