For Erickson, winless streak continues, 4-1

O's starter goes strong 7 against A's but hasn't won in past 13 starts

`He's been our tough-luck pitcher'

Mulder baffles Orioles, allows 3 hits in 7 innings

July 12, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The longest winless streak in Scott Erickson's career is careening out of control, and the Orioles pitcher isn't sure how to make it stop.

Erickson says he is not superstitious, but the way his luck has gone the past several weeks, one would swear he accidentally broke a mirror or walked underneath a ladder. The results haven't been pretty.

Starting the Orioles' first game after the All-Star break, Erickson saw another quality start go to waste last night, as the team's offense and defense had another disappointing game in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics before 32,507 at Camden Yards.

Oakland starter Mark Mulder (10-5) kept the Orioles baffled for seven innings, as the A's won for the 23rd time in their past 31 games.

Erickson (3-9) has not won since April 28, and the streak has reached 13 starts. The Orioles have scored just 39 runs in that span, and Erickson is 0-7 with a 4.67 ERA.

"You pitch seven innings and give up one run [actually three runs, two earned] you expect to have a shot at winning," Erickson said. "And we weren't even close."

In the first three innings, the Orioles committed two errors, as many they had on their entire six-game road trip before the All-Star break. They went 4-2 on that trip to Anaheim and Texas, and entered last night with a chance at reaching the .500 mark for the first time since May 11.

The loss dropped the Orioles to 42-44.

With the non-waiver trade deadline coming July 31, Erickson continued to show his value for scattered scouts sitting behind home plate, pitching effectively even without the high velocity he has shown in recent starts.

"At some point in time, it will turn around for him," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "At some point, we will score him some runs. He's just sort of been our tough-luck pitcher."

After overcoming an error by second baseman Jerry Hairston in the second inning, Erickson gave up all three of his runs in the third. As has been the case so often for him this season, the team's normally reliable defense had a lapse when he could least afford it.

With two outs, Miguel Tejada hit a run-scoring double to center field to make it 1-0. The Orioles could have been out of the inning down one run, but David Justice singled on a sharp grounder that Hairston tried to backhand but couldn't handle.

Eric Chavez dumped a run-scoring single into right-center field, and Orioles right fielder Gary Matthews overran the ball, allowing the runners to reach second and third on the error. Things kept getting worse, as Justice scored on a passed ball by catcher Geronimo Gil.

"We were a little flat the first three or four innings," Hargrove said. "Then the guys got into it and turned it on, but we weren't on top of our game tonight."

Mulder allowed just three hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out six. He is 8-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his past nine starts, showing the same form that helped him go 21-8 last season.

For some reason, with Erickson on the mound, the Orioles have struggled against left-handed pitchers. In his past four starts - all Orioles losses - they scored a total of five runs against Mulder, Jarrod Washburn, David Wells and Kirk Rueter.

Yet when Texas Rangers left-hander Kenny Rogers took the mound on Sunday with a 9-4 record, the Orioles scored seven runs in one inning, giving Rodrigo Lopez the win, even though he allowed four runs.

"We scored more runs in one inning against [Rogers] than we have in four of my starts against lefties," Erickson said. "It's pretty obvious I need to shut people out to get a no-decision."

With Mulder in the game, the Orioles went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They scored one in the eighth against reliever Jim Mecir, but he retired Jose Leon and Gil to end the inning.

Hargrove said he couldn't use the left-handed hitting Jay Gibbons to pinch hit that inning because Gibbons aggravated his right wrist injury during batting practice.

"His wrist wasn't 100 percent," Hargrove said. "Hopefully, it will be [tonight]."

A's closer Billy Koch pitched the ninth for his 21st save.

Melvin Mora flied to left to end the game. Mora, who struck out against Mulder with runners on first and second to end the seventh inning, didn't think the three-day layoff was to blame.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," he said. "They beat us - that's the bottom line. [Oakland] had three days off, too."

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