Erickson, O's show flashes but fall, 5-4

He ends winless month with encouraging outing, but Mariners prevail

O's rally from four-run deficit

Julio flops in ninth after Batista, Gibbons fail to deliver in eighth

May 31, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

This hasn't been Scott Erickson's month.

After posting solid numbers during April, Erickson went six starts without a win during May, though he came close last night after a rocky beginning.

Erickson surrendered four runs in the first two innings, then kept the Seattle Mariners scoreless through the eighth, long enough for the Orioles to come back to tie the score and nearly take the lead.

Jeff Cirillo put Seattle back ahead with a run-scoring double off Orioles closer Jorge Julio in the ninth inning, and the Mariners hung on to defeat the Orioles for the 18th time in their past 20 games, this one 5-4 before 30,287 at Camden Yards.

Erickson remained winless since April 28, despite holding the Mariners to four runs (three earned) on seven hits over eight innings. He finished May with an 0-3 record and 5.73 ERA.

"Scott Erickson probably threw as well as he's thrown all year long after the second inning, and that was good to see," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "The difference was, they executed with less than two outs and a runner on third, and we didn't"

Said Erickson: "It was just a couple bad breaks, and sometimes that's all it takes."

The Orioles fell behind 4-0 in the second inning, but came back to tie the game in the seventh on Brook Fordyce's first home run of the season. Fordyce turned on a first-pitch fastball from Mariners reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa for his first home run since Aug. 17.

The Orioles had a golden opportunity to take the lead and put Erickson in line for the win in the eighth inning. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Gary Matthews.

But Hasegawa struck out Tony Batista, and former Orioles left-hander Arthur Rhodes got Jay Gibbons to ground to second, ending the inning.

"I'm struggling a little bit right now with runners in scoring position," Batista said. "I think I'm trying to do too much, and I didn't do anything."

Julio (2-3) came on to pitch the ninth, and Desi Relaford led off with a single up the middle. Dan Wilson moved Relaford to second with a sacrifice bunt, and after Relaford stole third base, Cirillo doubled down the left-field line.

Cirillo had been hitless in his previous 16 at-bats, lowering his average to .229, but he came through this time.

Rhodes (3-1) earned the win, and Kazuhiro Sasaki pitched the ninth for his 12th save.

Mariners starter Rafael Soriano held the Orioles to three runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. Both of his major-league starts have come against the Orioles, and they were almost carbon copies.

On Saturday in Seattle, Soriano held the Orioles to one hit over the first five innings then gave up a two-run homer to Jeff Conine in the sixth. The exact same thing happened last night, as Conine's eighth homer trimmed Seattle's lead to 4-3.

Erickson retired the first two batters of the game, but Carlos Guillen singled up the middle, John Olerud walked and Chris Snelling hit another single up the middle, scoring Guillen for a 1-0 lead.

Nothing flashy, but a two-out rally nonetheless.

Erickson walked Relaford to start the second inning, Dan Wilson singled, and Cirillo reached on an error, as Erickson fielded a bunt and made a throw to first that pulled Roberts off the bag.

So the table was set for the Mariners, with the bases loaded and the top of their order coming up. Hit machine Ichiro Suzuki delivered a run-scoring single up the middle, then Mark McLemore hit a bouncer to first, scoring Wilson. Gufflen followed with a sacrifice fly, stretching Seattle's lead to 4-0.

The Orioles finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning. Roberts drew a leadoff walk, and Matthews reached on an error by Soriano. After Conine popped to shortstop, Batista walked to load the bases. Roberts scored when Gibbons hit a one-out bouncer to the second baseman and beat the double-play relay to first.

The Orioles are 0-5 in Erickson's past five starts and 4-8 overall in his starts.

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