Non-racing O's spin wheels, 8-6

Angels shell Erickson as O's again miss shot to join top East crowd

June 19, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The scoreboard in right field showed the carnage yesterday. The squeamish were advised to look away.

The Chicago White Sox were pounding the New York Yankees again, while the Toronto Blue Jays took their shots at the Boston Red Sox. Two teams ahead of the Orioles, a half-game separating them atop the AL East, absorbing punishment in their home ballparks.

For the second straight game, the Orioles had a chance to kick them when they were down, only to stub their toes.

Rather than gain ground on their division rivals, the Orioles concluded their extended homestand with two defeats that held them in place. Scott Erickson gave up eight runs in 5 2/3 innings, and the Orioles couldn't take advantage of a favorable matchup, lock-down relief pitching from Jose Mercedes or a late rally in losing to the Anaheim Angels, 8-6, before 41,198 at Camden Yards.

Erickson (3-4) served up two home runs among 11 hits, as the Orioles lost for only the second time in eight games and remained six behind the Red Sox. Mercedes, still on the brink of a minor-league assignment when Calvin Maduro is activated this week, turned in 3 1/3 scoreless innings as the Orioles clawed back from an 8-2 deficit.

"I don't think there's any momentum taken out of anything," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We played a good game today. We hit the ball hard and they made plays on them. We were in that game when it would have been very easy for this team to go through the motions. It was a hot, muggy day, but Mercedes came in and gave us a tremendous boost and gave us a chance to make a run at it."

Troy Glaus crushed a three-run homer in the third inning after a single by Mo Vaughn and sacrifice fly by Garret Anderson had staked Anaheim to a 2-0 lead. Glaus connected on the first pitch from Erickson, whose previous high for runs allowed this year was seven in 2 2/3 innings at Toronto on May 10.

Erickson didn't turn his head at first, knowing the instant Glaus made contact that he had just fallen into a deeper hole. He finally took a peek, almost out of curiosity, as the ball bounced off the roof of the Orioles' bullpen 438 feet away.

Catcher Charles Johnson hit a two-run shot off Seth Etherton in the third, but Darin Erstad matched it in the fourth to increase Anaheim's lead to 7-2. Manager Mike Hargrove made a change in the sixth, on Erickson's 109th pitch, after Orlando Palmeiro bounced a run-scoring single into right field.

"When Scottie stayed down for strikes, he was fine," Hargrove said. "I don't know how it looked up there [in the press box], but on the field they didn't hit the ball hard except for those two home runs. ... We made pitches and didn't quite get to the balls they hit."

Erickson, with trade rumors continuing to swirl around him, couldn't catch a break yesterday. In the at-bat before Erstad's home run, shortstop Benji Gil was awarded first base with the count 3-2 and one out. Plate umpire Travis Katzenmeier had ruled that an earlier pitch near Gil's fists had deflected off the knob of the bat, but the scoreboard showed a ball. Katzenmeier spent the next two pitches trying to get it corrected. Once that happened, he apparently lost track of the count.

"I thought it was a 1-2 count, then all of a sudden I looked up on the scoreboard and it said 2-2," Hargrove said. "The next pitch was a ball and it went to 3-2. I asked the umpire and he said, `No, it's 3-2.' I said, `I think it's 2-2.' Well, OK, then I'm not crazy."

Erickson, who wasn't aware of the mistake, made only two of his own. But they were costly.

"The second home run was low, a changeup, and probably not a good choice of pitches to that hitter," he said. "The one to Glaus was away and I probably should have pounded him in more than I did. But I pitched my game. They got a lot of ground-ball hits, and the three-run homer makes it look a lot worse than it really is."

The Orioles (30-36) scored twice in the seventh and added two more runs in the ninth, when they sent the winning run to the plate. Jeff Conine led off with his eighth home run and Will Clark walked to force closer Troy Percival into the game. Harold Baines singled, and a sacrifice fly by Brady Anderson with one out brought the Orioles within 8-6.

Mike Bordick walked with two outs, keeping pinch runner Mark Lewis at second, before Delino DeShields grounded to second. By that time, Toronto already had completed its 5-1 win, and the White Sox were in the ninth inning of their 17-4 rout.

"We can look up and see that they lost," Clark said, "but we still have to go out there and take care of our job."

Etherton was making his first appearance against the Orioles. Eleven of the 16 runs he has allowed this season have come off eight home runs. He appeared to be a sacrificial lamb for Albert Belle, who had homered in four straight games. But Belle went 0-for-3 against Etherton, who retired 12 of 13 after Johnson's blast.

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