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

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

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.

There was the time he celebrated a World Series title with the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and the time he pitched a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers three years later.

Even after he got traded to the Orioles in 1995, Erickson always seemed to dominate the Twins, especially in their home ballpark.

Last night, those seemed like distant memories when Minnesota pounded Erickson in a 6-0 romp that snapped the Orioles' four-game winning streak against the Twins.

Doug Mientkiewicz hit two home runs, and Rick Reed pitched a complete-game shutout, as the Orioles lost for the third time in their past four games.

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 they were quickly reminded that Minnesota is a much different team under its dome. For the season, the Twins are 41-20 at home, compared with 30-29 on the road.

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, Erickson 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.

It looked old times for the first three innings, as Erickson faced the minimum nine hitters with a little help from his defense. Jacque Jones walked to start the first inning, but Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil caught him trying to steal second.

Orioles shortstop Melvin Mora made a diving play on a ground ball by Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the second out in the third. Mora continues to look more comfortable at shortstop in Mike Bordick's absence, and he successfully fielded seven ground balls last night.

After getting through the third inning with just six pitches, Erickson walked Jones again 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 looked catchable for Orioles center fielder Chris Singleton. With left fielder Gary Matthews also converging on the ball, Singleton pulled up at the last second.

Corey Koskie followed with a sharp comebacker to the mound that deflected off Erickson. Had he fielded the ball 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 snapped 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.

Minnesota entered the night leading the American League Central by 13 games, but the natives were restless when the Twins went 1-5 on their recent trip to Baltimore and Boston. But the coziness of the dome was evident when Minnesota's All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter went into the right-center field gap to rob Singleton of extra bases in the first inning.

Singleton lined out in the fourth inning, and so did Tony Batista, as the Orioles hit the ball hard but had little to show for it against Reed (10-6).

The Orioles finished with five hits. Reed walked one batter and struck out four.

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

Twins third baseman Corey Koskie robbed Batista of a double in the ninth inning, and Reed got Jeff Conine to fly to left field, ending the game.

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