Leon learns tough lesson in O's defeat

Base-running miscue cost team run in 1-0 loss to Angels Wednesday

"I shouldn't make that mistake"

Setback kept Erickson winless since April 28

July 05, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Angels in Anaheim, Calif., ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at http://www.sunspot.net.

ANAHEIM, Calif. - One of the most basic rules with base running is never make the first or third out at third base. Orioles rookie Jose Leon knew the rule, and he knew his failure to adhere to that rule cost his team a run and perhaps a victory.

With scoring opportunities at a premium in the Orioles' 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Angels on Wednesday night, Leon made the third out at third base in the fifth inning.

What's worse, he made that out before Marty Cordova crossed home plate on a would-be sacrifice fly by Mike Bordick. With one out in a scoreless game, the Orioles had runners at second and third when Bordick hit a deep fly to center field.

Leon said he thought the ball was deep enough for him to reach third, but Angels center fielder Darin Erstad made a perfect one-hop throw, and third baseman Troy Glaus applied the tag.

Cordova, who has been bothered with a sore foot, tried scoring on the play, but home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled that Leon had been tagged out before Cordova touched home.

Leon, who had doubled off Angels starter Jarrod Washburn (9-2) to put the Orioles into prime scoring position, felt terrible after the game. Scott Erickson (3-8) pitched a complete game but remained winless in his past 12 starts when Erstad delivered a run-scoring infield single in the eighth inning.

"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."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove went to home plate to argue with Marquez but later said the umpire made the right call. Hargrove said it was a combination of Cordova having a bad foot and a rookie being "over-aggressive' on the bases.

"I would venture to say that Jose doesn't do that again, and it took a perfect throw to get him." Hargrove said. "Obviously it was the wrong play. He's got to make sure that run scores, but it still took a perfect throw. Doesn't excuse it. Don't get me wrong, but we"ll learn from it, and it'll make us better."

That was little consolation for Erickson, who is 0-6 with a 4.88 ERA since his last win on April 28. But the Orioles have averaged just 3.2 runs in those 12 starts. The Angels, for comparison, have averaged 5.9 runs during Washburn's streak of 14 starts without a loss.

"I've been in worse holes than this, so there's no problems here." Erickson said. "Hopefully the second half I can turn things around."

The Angels had gone 21 innings without scoring a run, including their 3-0 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday, but they finally ended that streak in the eighth.

Anaheim catcher Bengie Molina led off the inning 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.

Orlando Palmeiro moved Nieves to second with a sacrifice bunt, bringing leadoff man David Eckstein to the plate with one out. Eckstein hit a grounder up the middle, but Orioles shortstop 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, Orioles All-Star third baseman Tony Batista tried back-handing the ball but mishandled it and had no play.

Nieves scored. Erickson stared at first base in frustration. Erstad was credited with a hit. Angels closer Troy Percival sprinted in from the bullpen and nailed down his 20th save.

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.

"He keeps pitching like that, he's going to be OK." Hargrove said or Erickson.

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