Rested O's reign, 4-2

Erickson tames Angels for O's 9th win in row

Johnson nears mark

4-hit catcher now 9-for-9

Ripken (2,987) adds 3 hits

Bordick 3 RBIs

September 18, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- On a night when catcher Charles Johnson joined Cal Ripken in a chase of history, the Orioles continued to exhibit a strong close to a season that has featured Scott Erickson as its engine.

Given a bases-loaded double by shortstop Mike Bordick and a bases-empty home run by Albert Belle, the Orioles outlasted the Anaheim Angels, 4-2, before an Edison Field crowd of 28,865 to push their season-high winning streak to nine games.

Johnson and Ripken combined for seven of the Orioles' 12 hits, bringing both to the brink of significant achievements. Ripken's three hits leaves him with 2,987 career hits. Johnson's four hits means he hasn't been retired since Monday and is within one swing of tying an 18-year-old club record.

Erickson, 8-0 on the road since June 4, produced 6 2/3 dominant innings but could not avoid manager Ray Miller's hook despite a 4-0 lead. The Orioles then weathered a four-pitcher inning in which the Angels drew within two runs on right fielder Tim Salmon's two-run single against Al Reyes. Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 22nd save.

Grounded in Baltimore for two days by Hurricane Floyd, the Orioles arrived in Anaheim yesterday after failing to find a crew to fly their charter Wednesday night and aborting a takeoff on Thursday. Besides providing a metaphor for their season, the experience did nothing to interfere with Erickson's latest power performance or Ripken's rush at membership in the 3,000-hit club.

The Orioles received Johnson's second consecutive four-hit game and first triple since 1997, Erickson's seventh win in as many decisions at Edison Field, another bases-clearing hit by Bordick and one more reason to ask how this fourth-place season ever arrived at such an unfulfilling juncture.

Now 34-25 since the All-Star break, the 70-76 Orioles converted an out-of-control fifth inning by Angels left-hander Jarrod Washburn (3-3) into a 3-0 lead when Bordick mashed his second three-run hit in as many games. Bordick's double into the left-center-field gap scored Jerry Hairston, Johnson and Brady Anderson. Only Johnson had hit safely to reach.

Lost offensively for much of August, Johnson's four hits extended his recent breakout to 9-for-9 and a walk in his last 10 plate appearances. Johnson is within one hit of Ken Singleton's franchise mark set in 1981.

Bordick, who re-raised his average to above .400 against left-handed pitching, has hit in 15 of his last 16 games. His 70 RBIs are 16 more than his previous career high of 54 set in 1996 with the Oakland A's. In his last four games Bordick has a pair of three-RBI games in addition to a three-hit game.

From that point on the Orioles could cruise behind Erickson (14-11), who has fully recovered from a 1-8 start to challenge the Boston Red Sox's Pedro Martinez as the most impressive American League pitcher of the last three months.

Right fielder Albert Belle extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single and a seventh-inning home run that scraped inside the left-field foul pole.

Though supported by five runs or fewer for the 11th time in his last 13 starts, Erickson is 13-3 in his last 20 starts after enduring a winless April, an inconsistent May and a June marred by a 6.47 ERA.

Pushing for his third straight complete game, the Orioles' innings monster limited the Angels to two hits through five innings.

Erickson got eight of his first nine outs on ground balls and needed only two outfield putouts before Jim Edmonds led off the sixth inning with a single. This has become customary stuff for the sinkerball specialist who spent half a season toggling his mechanics.

Available for trade to the Cleveland Indians as recently as late last month, Erickson might have represented the difference between a world championship and another frustrating postseason for the Indians, who were unwilling to construct a package of players for him.

Erickson managed only two quality appearances -- six innings or more with three earned runs or fewer -- among his first 12 starts this season. Since, he has provided the Orioles with 13 in his last 19 starts.

Ripken added to the season's remaining suspense with a second-inning single, a seventh-inning double and a ninth-inning single that leaves him only 13 hits shy of 3,000 career hits with 16 games remaining. Ripken is riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he is 14-for-24. Since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1, Ripken has reinvigorated his pursuit of 3,000 with 19 hits in 14 games.

Yesterday's announcement that the Orioles and A's would make up this week's rainouts with a Thursday doubleheader at Camden Yards only enhances Ripken's chances. Once insistent of giving Ripken regular rest after his second return from the disabled list this season, manager Ray Miller no longer plans to sit his third baseman.

However, Miller may re-evaluate his stance should Ripken pull within striking distance of the milestone before the nine-game road trip ends.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.

Time: 10: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (11-11, 4.37) vs. Angels' Brian Cooper (1-0, 4.09)

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