Shutout sweetens sweep

Complete game is first for Erickson since surgery

Royals clobbered in finale, 13-0

3-game sweep first for O's since final series of 2000

April 29, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The sounds of Motley Crue blared in the visitors' clubhouse yesterday, which meant it was a good day for the Orioles, and a very good day for Scott Erickson.

In his sixth start since returning from major reconstructive elbow surgery, Erickson turned back time.

He pitched his first complete-game shutout since Sept. 7, 1999, as the Orioles trampled the Kansas City Royals, 13-0, at Kauffman Stadium.

The victory gave the Orioles their first three-game sweep since they swept the New York Yankees in the final series of the 2000 season.

"I would think it would be kind of a psychological barrier you'd have to break to come back and get your first complete game after arm surgery," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "I'm happy for him. I'm happier for us."

Looking more like the pre-surgery Erickson than he has in any other start this season, Erickson (3-2) held the Royals to four hits.

Seventeen of Kansas City's 27 outs came on the ground.

"I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out," said Erickson, who still loves his heavy metal music. "Not that it matters, but I didn't even strike anybody out, so it's not like I was dominating or overpowering.

"I'm just lucky the balls were hit at people today."

The Royals entered this series amid reports their manager, Tony Muser, could get fired any day, and the Orioles helped to turn that speculation into an absolute fury.

As bad as this loss was for Kansas City, it wasn't the worst of the season. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Royals, 14-0, on April 6.

"It's embarrassing, it's ridiculous and it's brutal to be a part of it," said Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney.

The Orioles spent the afternoon padding their statistics against the likes of pitchers Bryan Rekar (0-2), Jeremy Affeldt and Blake Stein.

Marty Cordova had four of the Orioles' 15 hits, raising his average to .333. Geronimo Gil had three hits - two doubles - and three RBIs. Chris Singleton, Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons added two hits apiece.

"In the past 10 games or so, we've been pitching well and getting big hits with runners in scoring position," Cordova said. "That's probably what we weren't doing so well earlier in the year."

As thrilled as they were with their offense, the Orioles knew the day belonged to Erickson. He pitched three-hit ball over six innings on Opening Day and went eight innings in a loss to Boston his second start, but this time he didn't even allow a runner to reach third base until the ninth.

For a while, the better Erickson pitched, the worse second baseman Mike Moriarty felt.

The Royals had just one hit for 6 2/3 innings, and that one hit came on a play Moriarty makes in his sleep - if he doesn't fall down. Moriarty slipped on a ground ball by Carlos Beltran in the first inning, his throw to first was not in time, and the play was scored as a base hit.

Sweeney doubled down the third-base line with two outs in the seventh, and the Royals added two hits, taking some of the load off Moriarty.

"I guess it was wet up the middle, and my feet just went out from under me," Moriarty said. "I was feeling pretty small, but they got a couple more hits, so I guess it didn't matter.

"You definitely have to make the plays behind Scotty. He pitched a heck of a game. Unbelievable."

In the most telling sign of Erickson's progression, he said he threw about 15 to 20 changeups yesterday. Before the surgery, he said, he threw the changeup less than five times per game.

But before Erickson will agree he's all the way back, he wants to add about 2 mph to his fastball. The pitch used to be clocked at 93 mph; now, it averages about 91 mph.

"I think with more time he'll gain more velocity," Hargrove said. "He has a better changeup now, and it's really a good pitch for him when he throws it effectively. He's not the power-sinker guy he was before the surgery, but he's not far from it."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Fenway Park, Boston

Time:6:05

TV/Radio:CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (2-0, 2.21) vs. Red Sox's Frank Castillo (1-1, 3.80)

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