- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000


NEW YORK The New York Yankees spent Independence Day showing how badly they need another starter. Scott Erickson spent the Fourth of July showing why he could be valuable to a contender.

The Baltimore Orioles rocked Yankees starter David Cone for four home runs, watched Erickson, in his final start before getting veto power over any trades, turn in one of his best performances of the season, then survived a near meltdown by their bullpen in a 7-6 win before 44,447 at Yankee Stadium.

"Once he got past the first inning, he started throwing really good sinkers and he kept his sinker on the whole game," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said of Erickson, who scattered six hits in 7 2/3 innings. "He got a lot of ground balls from some very good hitters and that's very good to see."

Erickson becomes a 10-5 player at midnight tonight (10 years in the majors, five with the same club), giving him the right to block any trades. The Orioles are shopping Erickson to a contender but he says that's not distracting him.

"I don't worry about [trade talk]," Erickson said. "Rumors are rumors… . I have no control over it until I can veto a trade."

The Orioles' fourth win in five games improved them to 36-45 while the struggling Yankees fell to 40-37. The Orioles are still the worst road team in baseball, but after losing 14 of 15 games away from home, the Orioles have won three of their last four games on the road. That's a promising sign as they head into next week's All-Star break with six straight road games beginning yesterday.

"It's a good start," said Orioles first baseman Will Clark. "We want to take some momentum into the break and get back in the race in the [American League] East. We scored a lot of runs in the first couple of games of our last road trip and still lost, so it was big to hang on and win this one."

For eight innings the Orioles dominated yesterday but then they turned the lead over to their bullpen and things, got "scary," according to Hargrove. Alan Mills, who was brought in to close out the ninth, gave up two runs and Mike Trombley gave up one more before getting Paul O'Neill to ground out to end the game with the tying run on second.

The Yankees were in such a big hole because Cone looked nothing like the rock of a rotation that led the Bronx Bombers to three of the past four World Series championships. Yesterday the 36-year-old former Cy Young winner lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up all the Orioles runs to drop his record to 1-7 and raise his ERA to 6.40.

Cone's woes are one of the reasons the Yankees are one of several contenders in the market for pitching help and the usually reliable Erickson is one of the more coveted pitchers on the block. But in his three starts before yesterday, Erickson did little do evoke a decent offer, lasting a combined 15 2/3 innings and giving up 22 runs.

After a rough first inning in which he gave up two singles and hit a batter to help the Yankees go up 2-1, Erickson settled down and resembled the pitcher that so many contenders are eyeing. In the next 6 2/3 innings, he only allowed one hit while getting 10 ground-ball outs, a sure sign that his sinker was working.

Left fielder B.J. Surhoff helped Erickson out with a leaping catch at the wall in the fifth to deny Chuck Knoblauch a home run. Erickson got into a jam in the eighth and gave up a run but Buddy Groom came on to strike out David Justice to quell the rally.

Meanwhile, Cone was giving up homers faster than the venders on this steamy day were selling beer. Mike Bordick hit his career-high 14th in the first, Harold Baines hit a solo shot and Brady Anderson a two-run blast in the second and in the sixth, light-hitting Mark Lewis hit a three-run homer, his first of the year, to put the Orioles up 7-2.

Cone should have been out of the inning before Lewis went deep but he committed a throwing error to keep the frame alive.

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