Indians, leg short-circuit Erickson, 6-2

Strained groin, 5 runs force early exit in Os loss

Velocity down, rebuilt elbow fine

Baez throttles bats as Os conclude 5-2 homestand

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

Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson left last nights game in the third inning with a strained right groin, which limited him to his shortest start in more than three years.

Ericksons velocity was noticeably lower, with his fastball registering as low as 86 mph, and the Orioles were just glad it was his surgical repaired right elbow.

The Cleveland Indians scored five games off Erickson in two-plus innings, and the Indians cruised behind rookie pitcher Danys Baez in a 6-2 victory before 29,361 at Camden Yards.

The loss gave the Orioles a 5-2 homestand, which included a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. After an off day today, the Orioles will open a three-game series tomorrow night at Tampa Bay.

Erickson (3-3) faced four batters in the third inning without recording an out. After a single and a walk, Jim Thome hit a three-run homer, Ellis Burks singled, and Erickson threw an 86-mph fastball to Travis Fryman, prompting Orioles manager Mike Hargrove to remove Erickson from the game.

Afterward, Hargrove said he thought Erickson could make his next scheduled start, Wednesday at Cleveland.

Erickson agreed.

"Hopefully having six days off, it'll be much better next time and I'll be ready to go, Erickson said. I was hoping to just keep them close for five innings and just get out of there. Give the bullpen a chance and just try to suck up a couple of innings, and just didn't do it. You feel bad to go out there and let your teammates down. That's the bottom line. They count on you every time you go out there."

It was Ericksons shortest start since he went 10 innings against the Devil Rays on April 29, 1999. He underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2000 and returned with no signs of problems through his first seven starts this season.

For the Orioles, who had designated hitter David Segui back in the lineup for the first time in five days, it was more than enough injury intrigue for one day. Segui went 0-for-4, lining into a double play, striking out twice and flying to right field.

Orioles trainer Richie Bancells and pitching coach Mark Wiley paid a visit to Erickson in the second inning, after he hit leadoff man Burks with a pitch.

Erickson kept his head bowed as they returned to the dugout, and his velocity never returned. With one out and two on in the inning, he walked Jolbert Cabrera, the last pitch registering 88 mph on the ballparks radar gun.

Then Einar Diaz hit an 87-mph pitch to deep left field, but Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova jumped up to rob a would-be 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 snapped 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 didnt get another out. The first four Indians reached in the third, with Thome crushing a three-run homer to center field after taking two changeups out of the strike zone.

Thome also had a three-run homer off Orioles pitcher Sean Douglass on Monday night, and it was Thomes fourth career home run off Erickson in 32 at- bats.

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

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

Driskell 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.

Gary Matthews hit his second triple in as many games and scored on Jeff Conines sacrifice fly, trimming Clevelands 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 Branyans third homer in as many nights, and this one gave Cleveland a 6-1 lead.

Home plate umpire Gary Darling issued a warning in the eighth inning after Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan hit former Oriole Brady Anderson with a fastball in the upper back.

It was the fourth hit batter of the night by the Orioles. Ryan appeared to gesture apologetically toward Anderson at first and Anderson waved back to his former teammate, as if to say, "No problem."

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 Orioles Chad Paronto pitched the ninth.

Indians third baseman Fryman left in the fifth inning with a strained hamstring.

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