Twins drive by hex, O's, 6-0

Erickson yields 3 homers as 9-0 streak vs. ex-mates dissolves in 2 big innings

Ill Reed blanks Orioles on 5 hits

O's have scored four runs in first four games of trip

August 14, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson has certainly had better times at the Metrodome than this.

He celebrated a World Series title with the Minnesota Twins here in 1991 and pitched a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers here three years later. Even after he got traded to the Orioles in 1995, Erickson always seemed to dominate the Twins, especially in their home stadium.

Last night, those seemed like distant memories as Minnesota pounded Erickson in a 6-0 romp that broke their four-game losing streak against the Orioles, dating to last season.

Doug Mientkiewicz hit two home runs, and Rick Reed (10-6) allowed five hits in a complete-game shutout, as the Orioles lost for the third time in their past four games.

The Orioles have now been shut out 12 times this season, tying Kansas City for the second most in the American League behind Tampa Bay, at 13. Four games into this road trip to Detroit and Minnesota, they have scored just four runs.

The Orioles swept three games from the Twins last week at Camden Yards, but Minnesota is a much different team under its dome. For the season, the Twins are 41-20 at home, and 30-29 on the road.

"They play well here," said Orioles center fielder Chris Singleton, who was robbed of an extra-base hit by Torii Hunter in the first inning and lined out in the fourth. "And they seem to get a lot of breaks."

Erickson (5-11) had won nine consecutive decisions against the Twins, including his seven-inning performance last Wednesday at Camden Yards. In his five previous starts for the Orioles at the Metrodome, he was 4-0 with three complete-game shutouts and a 1.83 ERA.

This time, the Twins got to Erickson for six runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Erickson is having a trying year in his first season back from ligament-replacement surgery in his elbow.

"Obviously, the last four starts I'm not very happy with," said Erickson, who has a 10.31 ERA in the span. "The first three months, I was very happy with the way things were going besides velocity. All my pitches were there, and I wasn't winning."

It looked like old times for the first three innings, as Erickson faced the minimum nine hitters with a little help from his defense.

After getting through the third inning with just six pitches, Erickson walked Jacque Jones for the second time to lead off the fourth. Once again it came on a full-count pitch, and both were close calls for home plate umpire Tim McClelland.

Erickson's frustrations grew immediately, as Cristian Guzman singled to left-center field on a ball that bounced in front of Singleton. With left fielder Gary Matthews also converging on the ball, Singleton pulled up at the last second.

"It just died," Singleton said. "It didn't have much on it. I wasn't really close enough. If I'd have dove for the ball, on this turf, it would have bounced, and then you play the ball into a extra-base hit."

Corey Koskie followed with a sharp comebacker that deflected off the side of Erickson's knee, causing no pain, he said. Had he fielded it cleanly, he might have had a double play, but he was forced to take the single out at first.

Those near-misses proved costly. David Ortiz broke an 0-for-19 skein with a two-run double down the first base-line, and with two outs, Mientkiewicz hit a two-run homer to right field for a 4-0 lead.

Ortiz led off the sixth inning with a towering, 403-foot home run. Two batters later, Mientkiewicz hit his second homer of the game and eighth of the season. For Mientkiewicz, it was his second two-homer game of his career, the other coming April 27, 2001 against the Orioles.

The spectacular plays behind Reed continued until Koskie made a diving stop at third and threw across the diamond to rob Tony Batista of a hit in the ninth. Reed walked one batter and struck out four.

"His defense made some really good plays," manager Mike Hargrove said. "But we didn't swing the bat well enough tonight to make a difference."

Adding salt to the wound, the Orioles would learn that Reed was having coughing fits all night.

"I felt all right, except my head's about to explode," Reed said. "My body hurts from coughing. Other than that I feel great."

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