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 all offense needed

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

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A complicated season became simple last night for Scott Erickson: Throw strikes and have an opponent beat the ball toward shortstop Mike Bordick.

Pitching most of the night with no room for error, Erickson conspired with his defense for a 4-2 win 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.

Erickson (10-10) 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 defense brilliance.

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

A three-run third inning and pinch hitter Derrick May's ninth-inning sacrifice fly was 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 scoreless ninth for his 16th save and seventh conversion in a row.

The Orioles played fast and loose on the bases early and were punished by making the third out of consecutive innings at the plate on outfield assists.

Scatter-armed Royals starter Dan Reichart staggered through 4 1/3 innings while allowing 12 base runners, including five walks. He suffered the same fate as the Orioles' Mike Mussina and Arthur Rhodes suffered Sunday when Albert Belle drilled him in the right arm with a line shot in the fifth inning. Reichart immediately left the game with a bruised right elbow and was a replaced by Mac Suzuki.

The Orioles, who lead the major leagues in men left on base, took a 3-2 lead while counting their missed opportunities. Reichart helped them construct a three-run second inning by sandwiching three walks around Jeff Conine's single.

With no one out, Charles Johnson walked with the bases loaded to force home Harold Baines. Brady Anderson's one-out grounder was smothered by second baseman Ray Holbert. However, Holbert had no play as Conine scored for a 2-0 lead.

Renowned for bases-loaded success in his career, left fielder B.J. Surhoff then cracked a two-out single to right field.

Delino DeShields scored routinely. Rather than chance Belle with a bases-loaded situation, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo waved Johnson. Royals right fielder Jermaine Dye tied a franchise record for outfield assists by easily throwing out Johnson.

Belle became involved in another play at the plate in the third. Having walked and stolen his way into scoring position, he tried to reach home on DeShields' two-out single to center. This time, Johnny Damon's throw foiled the Orioles' aggression, though Belle slid late and hard in an attempt to jar catcher Chad Kreuter.

Erickson then resumed his improbable pursuit of .500. Plagued by infield hits and one jarring mistake, he rolled through six innings with a 3-2 lead.

Four of the Royals' first six hits failed to leave the infield. One of the two exceptions came with one out in the fourth inning when Erickson fed Royals third baseman Joe Randa an 0-2 fastball that was driven 407 feet for a two-run homer.

A strong defensive performance enabled Erickson to cruise much of the rest of the way.

Anderson made a diving catch to rob Dye of an RBI double in the first inning. Twice, Bordick ranged far to take away hits and in the fifth inning turned a Mike Sweeney line drive into a jam-ending double play after the Royals had put runners at first and second.

DeShields prevented 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, Randa's home run might have tied the game.

Erickson continued his trend of low-strikeout games, but also extended his ability to manage situations. His walk of Damon to lead off the first inning was his only pass.

Erickson's season has been one of diverging halves. Only 1-8 after 11 starts, he entered last night 7-2 in his last 16 appearances.

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

He received his final piece of defensive assistance in the seventh inning after Holbert led off with a single. Rather than have Damon sacrifice the tying run into scoring position, Royals manager Tony Muser allowed him to loft a fly to center.

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

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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