Jays bash Erickson, sweep, 7-2

In second start, he yields 7 runs, 12 hits in just 2 2/3 innings

O's end road trip 1-5

`We didn't make pitches whole series'

May 11, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO — A road trip that was supposed to give the Orioles a reading on where they truly stand ended in brutal fashion last night with an answer they didn't want to hear.

The Toronto Blue Jays unleashed another barrage against an Orioles starting pitcher that enabled them to cruise to a 7-2 win before 15,598 at SkyDome. The Orioles return home tonight with two tendencies intact: they couldn't win a road series from the New York Yankees and they couldn't win a game inside SkyDome.

This time, it was Scott Erickson's turn to absorb an unsightly road beating. The big-swinging Blue Jays punished the right-hander for seven earned runs and 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings before he could be rescued from a 10-batter third.

Two starts removed from the disabled list, Erickson (0-1) has yet to answer questions about his arm strength following a two-month rehabilitation from arthroscopic elbow surgery. The rest of the rotation has fared little better and concluded the Blue Jays' three-game sweep having surrendered 18 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings pitched.

"You don't have to be perfect to get them out. But you've got to make pitches to get them out. And we didn't make the pitches the whole series to get them out," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Jason Johnson left Monday's start promising to increase his tempo.

Mike Mussina left Tuesday admitting he has never been so confused about pitching since reaching the major leagues.

Erickson's struggles could at least be rationalized. His first two starts have come against the league's best team and its best offense.

"It's his second outing since September," said Hargrove. "I think we run Scotty out there expecting him to do very well, but we shouldn't be surprised it's not what our expectations are because it is early."

"I was well-prepared but I think they were a little better today," said Erickson. "That was the best I've felt in a long time. It's just a question of circumstances."

Hargrove retreated from drawing conclusions less than a quarter through the season. However, the Orioles did nothing to parlay Sunday's uplifting win in New York against a pitching staff that had been battered by the Cleveland Indians before their arrival.

"We didn't pitch well," said Hargrove. "We scored enough runs to win a lot of games in this series. As a whole, we didn't pitch well. This game is a game of cycles. Right now, we're in a bit of a downturn. The trick is to make it last shorter than our good cycles. We're in the process of doing that.

"The only way you can do that is go out there every day expecting to win. It doesn't do any good to sit around and mope and moan about a lack of this or lack of that," said Hargrove. "It all comes down to it's a team effort. We've all got to go out and do our jobs and be prepared to do our jobs. If we do that and we have the talent we'll do OK. And I believe we do."

A silver lining? The Orioles' bullpen averted a total breakdown with 5 1/3 scoreless innings, including 10 outs from Chuck McElroy. But this was a salvage operation instead of something meaningful.

Below .500 for the first time since Opening Day, the 16-17 Orioles return home from a 1-5 road trip. Their last two wins have come through ninth-inning rallies, they have yet to win consecutive games this month, and have won only two of their last 10 games.

They also were unable to interrupt their recent futility against the Blue Jays and their park. Last night's loss was the Orioles' 13th consecutive to Toronto and their 14th straight in SkyDome.

Erickson never gained solid footing. After Albert Belle gave the Orioles a brief lead in the second inning with a leadoff home run, Tony Batista gave the Jays a 1-1 tie with a second-inning home run before the third inning collapsed on top of him.

"Scotty just didn't have it tonight. Everything they hit, hard or soft, was where we couldn't get to it. They hit a lot of balls hard. By the time we got anybody up and ready, they had scored five or six runs," said Hargrove. "Scotty didn't have depth on his breaking balls. They were all flat. He threw some good sinkers but he threw some hittable pitches out over the plate and they hit them."

Three consecutive singles pushed the lead to 2-0 before left fielder Marty Cordova's two-run, bases-loaded single created a four-run game. Erickson got his last out when Batista was thrown out attempting to score from second base on a single. Consecutive singles by Jose Cruz and Homer Bush served as Erickson's ouster with the Orioles trailing 7-1.

Erickson has never constructed massive expectations about his return. His perspective comes from last year when he was 1-6 at the same juncture before rallying for a 15-win season.

"I didn't expect anything. That's why during the whole process I didn't want to talk about any of it," said Erickson. "It doesn't matter what you do in A-ball or Double-A. It's not close to what you do at the major-league level."

The Blue Jays entered the season with their pitching staff in total disarray. Left-hander Lance Painter was imported from the bullpen to make last night's start in place of Roy Halladay. He responded by striking out a career-high eight in five innings, allowing but two hits.

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