Indians, leg short-circuit Erickson, 6-2

Strained groin, 5 runs force early exit in O's loss

Velocity down, rebuilt elbow fine

Baez throttles bats as O's conclude 5-2 homestand

May 09, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Scott Erickson knew the Orioles were headed for a long game last night when he was warming up in the bullpen.

His right groin, which had stiffened up after his previous start, was acting up again, and the Cleveland Indians, starving for success in recent weeks, weren't about to show any sympathy.

Erickson told himself to try and make it at least five innings, but his velocity was down and he recorded only six outs in his shortest start in more than three years.

Jim Thome hit a three-run homer off Erickson, and the Indians cruised behind pitcher Danys Baez to a 6-2 victory before 29,361 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (17-17) fell back to .500, dropping two of three to the Indians after sweeping four games over the Kansas City Royals to start the homestand.

Cleveland has won four of its past five since going through a recent 3-15 stretch.

"You feel bad to go out there and let your teammates down; that's the bottom line," Erickson said. "They count on you every time you go out there, and then to put them in a hole like that. ... Hopefully it'll be all right in a couple days."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he thinks Erickson will be able to make his next start. With off days before and after this weekend's series at Tampa Bay, that start is scheduled for Wednesday at Cleveland.

Erickson (3-3) faced four batters in the third inning without recording an out. Thome's home run made it 5-0, then Ellis Burks singled, and Erickson threw an 86-mph fastball to Travis Fryman for ball one, prompting Hargrove to go to his bullpen.

"I think it affected a couple things," Hargrove said of Erickson's injury. "I think it kept him from really driving off the rubber, using his legs. His velocity, instead of being 91 to 92 [mph], was 85-87 most of the night. I think it affected his command and his control, too."

It was Erickson's shortest start since he went 1 2/3 innings against the Devil Rays on April 29, 1999, but at least the Orioles could rest easy knowing this one had nothing to do with his surgically repaired right elbow.

For the Orioles, who had designated hitter David Segui back in the lineup for the first time in five days despite a sore wrist, there had been plenty of injury intrigue for one day. Segui went 0-for-4, lining into a double play, striking out twice and flying to right field.

Erickson told Hargrove about the groin injury after the first inning. To start the second, Erickson hit Burks with a pitch, bringing Orioles trainer Richie Bancells and pitching coach Mark Wiley to the mound.

"You could tell there was something wrong with him, just the way he was throwing the ball," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "You could see it right from the beginning of the game. He was pushing the ball rather than throwing it."

Erickson stayed in the game, but his velocity never returned. With two on and two outs in the second, he walked Jolbert Cabrera, with the last pitch registering 88 mph on the ballpark's radar gun.

Then Einar Diaz hit an 87-mph pitch to deep left field, but Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova jumped up to steal a possible home run. Fryman tagged from third base and scored on the play, giving Diaz a sacrifice fly.

Hot-hitting Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, who later had his errorless streak stopped at 57 games, added a run-scoring single to make it 2-0. Erickson caught a break when Vizquel made a wide turn of first base and was thrown out.

It was a brief respite for Erickson, who didn't get another out. The first four Indians reached in the third, and Thome lofted his three-run homer to center field on a 2-0 count.

Erickson said he didn't think the ball was gone off the bat, but the wind seemed to carry it over the wall. It was Thome's fourth career home run off Erickson in 32 at-bats, and he had a three-run homer off Orioles pitcher Sean Douglass on Monday.

Hargrove had a brief conversation at the mound with Erickson before motioning for right-hander Travis Driskill. The Orioles would later announce Erickson's injury as a slight strain.

"Hopefully, having six days off it'll be much better next time, and I'll be ready to go," Erickson said. "It's hard to throw the ball [with the injury]. It takes your whole body, and it was tough tonight."

Driskill did a masterful job keeping the Orioles in the game, tossing five hitless innings. He didn't allow a run, despite allowing four walks and hitting a batter.

Baez (4-3) allowed one run on six hits over seven innings, walking two and striking out five. Ricardo Rincon pitched the eighth inning, and former Oriole Chad Paronto pitched the ninth.

Gary Matthews hit his second triple in as many games and scored on Jeff Conine's sacrifice fly, trimming Cleveland's lead to 5-1 in the sixth inning.

But the Orioles would get no closer, as Indians left fielder Russell Branyan homered off Rick Bauer to lead off the eighth inning. It was Branyan's third homer in as many nights, and this one gave Cleveland a 6-1 lead.

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