Orioles team up to top Texas

Erickson, 'pen provide pitching, Johnson, Surhoff power in 3-2 win

Mills returns from L.A

Rally helps Erickson overcome wildness

June 14, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

An afternoon trade for reliever and old friend Alan Mills, an early evening power-based rally against Texas Rangers starting pitcher Rick Helling, a tough man's win for Scott Erickson and a successful late-inning mix-and-match session for manager Mike Hargrove made last night's 3-2 Orioles win before 40,175 at Camden Yards unlike any other this season.

The Orioles obtained Mills for ill-fitting Al Reyes, then watched as Erickson (3-3) survived seven innings and eight walks. B.J. Surhoff and Charles Johnson provided his rescue with home runs off Helling and the rapid-fire appearances of Buddy Groom, Mike Trombley and Mike Timlin secured the Orioles' first three-game win streak since a four-game streak ended May 27.

For Timlin, the save was his sixth.

For the Orioles, the win was their first since April 29 (3-1 over the Rangers) when scoring fewer than four runs.

For the franchise, the return of Mills may or may not represent a first half-step toward a clubhouse face-lift.

"You can't ever have enough power arms. Power arms can get away with making pitches other guys can't because a 95 mile per hour fastball up in the zone is harder to hit than an 87 fastball up in the zone. Power arms are a rare commodity these days," said Hargrove.

"It can make a lot of difference," said Timlin, who covered a perfect ninth inning. "Alan can come in as a harder-throwing right-hander to complement this bullpen. Al Reyes was a quality pitcher who throws a lot of strikes. Alan is a little different, a little more over the top, a little more experienced."

Yesterday's deal was the first completed by vice-president of baseball operations Syd Thrift involving players off two major-league rosters since he acquired Chuck McElroy for Jesse Orosco in a swap of left-handed relievers Dec. 10.

"He's a great guy, a great clubhouse guy," Erickson said of Mills, who signed a three-year, $6.5 million deal with the Dodgers after the '98 season. "I'm sure he's as excited as anybody to come back here. I thought it was a mistake when they let him go in the first place. He's a good dude."

Finalized at about 5:30 p.m., the trade for Mills came one day after the Orioles obtained 24-year-old minor-league outfielder Karim Garcia from the Detroit Tigers for future considerations. Thrift's public commitment to making the Orioles younger and faster involves a possible match with the New York Yankees as majority owner Peter Angelos has become involved in a possible deal that would likely cost the club outfielder Brady Anderson or Surhoff for a top prospect.

Mills, 33, matches the roster's average age. His immediate role likely will be to share eighth-inning responsibilities with Trombley, but his presence could potentially allow Thrift additional leverage to deal again.

Erickson's durability is his best asset and last night it was needed simply to overcome his own wildness. The Rangers took advantage of two leadoff walks to manufacture a two-run third inning. Through 4- innings, Erickson's seven walks were only one shy of his career high. Erickson eventually matched his career high in a 114-pitch performance, including only 55 strikes. He faced base runners in every inning, allowed six into scoring position, but avoided the extra-base hit that would have punished his sloppiness.

"A lot of times when you're wild like that you throw the ball over the middle. I was in so much trouble I was trying to make them hit singles instead of homers. I aimed for the black. If I missed, I was off the plate," said Erickson.

Walks to Luis Alicea, Rusty Greer and Rafael Palmeiro loaded the bases with one out in the third. David Segui's grounder was enough to score Alicea when Delino DeShields and Mike Bordick couldn't turn a double play. Erickson then jammed Dave Martinez, but his flare fell into shallow right to score Greer for a 2-0 lead. Martinez's was the only hit in the inning.

The Orioles' offensive lifeblood is their power. Last night it coursed through the fourth and fifth innings to turn a deficit into a 3-2 lead. Surhoff smacked a two-out bases-empty homer in the fourth. Will Clark then started the fifth with a single before Johnson crushed a one-out drive to right-center for his 12th homer.

"When Charles stays short with his swing and gets in good hitting counts, he can put a charge in a ball," said Hargrove. "He's a better hitter than he thinks he is."

Erickson managed to right himself as soon as he smelled a win. After walking seven of the first 23 hitters, he walked one of his last seven.

With two outs and the tying run at first base in the seventh, Hargrove made a mound visit but opted to stay with Erickson rather than call upon the left-handed Groom to face Palmeiro.

"That's why I chuckle when I get accused of managing by the book," said Hargrove, "because there are times I don't."

Erickson's final out may have been the game's most bizarre, thanks to Ivan Rodriguez's base-running lapse. Stealing on a 1-2 pitch, Rodriguez inexplicably tried to take third base when the ball skipped through Johnson to the backstop. Johnson recovered in time to easily beat Rodriguez with his throw.

"We've already talked about making good choices," said Rangers manager Johnny Oates. "Maybe with one out or two outs that's a chance worth taking. But [with two outs], you are going to score from second on a base hit."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Rangers' Kenny Rogers (5-5, 3.78) vs. Orioles' Pat Rapp (4-4, 4.67)

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