Erickson's run of bad luck worsens, 1-0

Run on scratch hit in 8th lifts Angels, extending vet's drought to 12 games

4-hitter leaves him 0-6 since April

Washburn matches zeros for 9th in row

Leon gaffe costs O's run on sac fly

July 04, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - A starting pitcher can grumble about run support and cling proudly to a tidy little earned run average, but ultimately his bread is buttered with wins and losses.

Baseball immortalizes its 300-game winners and pays only passing attention to ERA champions and victims of poor run support.

This is why last night's duel between Orioles starter Scott Erickson and Anaheim Angels starter Jarrod Washburn was so compelling. As the innings passed with nothing but zeros on the scoreboard, something had to give. Somebody's streak was bound to end.

Erickson had an 11-start winless streak, and Washburn had gone 13 starts without a defeat. The Angels finally received a run-scoring infield single by Darin Erstad in the eighth inning to pull out a 1-0 victory at Edison International Field.

With their fourth loss in the past six games, the Orioles (39-42) reached the midpoint of their 162-game schedule with an identical record to last season's. A year ago, they went 24-56 from this point forward and wound up 35 games under .500.

Erickson (3-8) allowed one run on four hits over eight innings, earning a complete game but seeing his winless streak stretch to 12. He is 0-6 with a 4.88 since his last win, April 28.

"You can't sit here and let games like this bother you," Erickson said. "It's happened plenty of times before, and I'm not going to change the way I do anything, or try to get superstitious or tie my socks backward or anything like that."

Washburn (9-2) won his ninth consecutive decision, allowing three hits in eight innings. The Angels finally rewarded him by piecing together a run in the eighth.

Angels catcher Bengie Molina led off with a single to left field, causing Erickson to kick the dirt in disgust. Angels manager Mike Scioscia sent in Jose Nieves to run for Molina, which was definitely a hare running for a tortoise.

The Angels had their strange little Rally Monkey dancing on the video scoreboard, and Orlando Palmeiro moved Nieves to second with a sacrifice bunt, bringing short-statured leadoff man David Eckstein to the plate.

Eckstein hit a grounder up the middle, but Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick made a diving stop, and threw to first base in time for the out. Bordick has gone a career-best 64 games without an error, and on that play he saved a run.

But Nieves advanced to third, and the Orioles' luck ran out when Erstad followed with a slow chopper down the third base line. Knowing he had to hurry with the fleet Erstad running to first, All-Star third baseman Tony Batista tried backhanding the ball but mishandled it and had no play.

Nieves scored. Erickson stared at first base in frustration. Erstad was credited with a hit. The Angels had broken their 22-inning scoreless streak, and closer Troy Percival sprinted from the bullpen to earn his 20th save.

"He keeps pitching like that, he's going to be OK," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said of Erickson.

Washburn's nine-game winning streak is the longest by an Angels starter since Chuck Finley won 14 in a row from the end of 1997 into 1998. Erickson's 12-game winless streak is the longest of his career.

But their streaks show just how deceiving won-lost records can be.

Washburn hasn't lost in 14 starts, and the Angels have averaged 5.9 runs during that stretch.

Erickson hasn't won in 12 starts, and the Orioles have averaged 3.2 runs. So while Washburn was on the winning end of 9-7 and 10-6 victories, Erickson was on the losing end of well-pitched games, such as his 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees last week at Camden Yards.

This made it all the more frustrating when Orioles first baseman Jose Leon cost the team a run with a fifth-inning base-running blunder. With the game still scoreless, Leon's double put runners at second and third, and with one out Bordick hit a would-be sacrifice fly to deep center field.

Marty Cordova tagged from third, and Leon tagged from second. Erstad threw to third base, in time to nab Leon, and it proved costly when plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled that Cordova, who has been hobbled with a sore foot, had not yet crossed the plate.

"I shouldn't make that mistake at this level," Leon said, "and I probably cost the game for Scott today. He pitched a pretty good game. I'm disappointed by the way I run the base, but the game's over, and at least I've learned."

Said Hargrove: "You hate to see that. You teach that and teach that and teach that in the minor leagues, and when it does happen, it's never pretty. You never like it, but those things happen. I'm not condoning the mistake, don't get me wrong, I'm not, but I would rather see us make aggressive mistakes than passive mistakes."

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