- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2000

BALTIMORE When teams that need pitching help start thinking about trades, Scott Erickson's name is usually near the top of their wish lists. The Baltimore Orioles wish he'd start showing why so many teams are intrigued by the veteran right-hander.

Erickson's frustrating season, which began with spring training elbow surgery that cost him the first month of the season and has been filled with inconsistency since he returned, continued yesterday when he was roughed up by the Anaheim Angels in an 8-6 loss before 41,198 at Camden Yards.

The loss was a disappointing end to a nine-game homestand that saw the Orioles (30-36) win six straight games and play some of the most balanced baseball of the season. The Angels improved to 35-33.

"We're playing well right now," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "A 6-3 homestand, that's a good nine-game stretch."

During his 10-year major league career, Erickson has been known for a hard slider that induces a number of ground balls. So he was particularly frustrated yesterday with the two multi-run homers he served up.

The deep fly balls ultimately were the difference as they proved too large a margin for a late Orioles' rally to overcome.

Traditionally one of the league leaders in innings pitched, Erickson lasted only 5 1/3 innings yesterday. It was the second time in his last three starts he's been unable to get past the sixth inning.

Over his last three starts, Erickson has allowed an unusually high number of base-runners. In 18 innings, 35 batters have gotten at least as far as first base, either by hit or by walk. During that span he's allowed 16 runs, half of them yesterday.

Yesterday it was 11 base hits that hurt Erickson the most, though a disputed walk didn't help matters any. The Angels hit four third-inning singles and led 2-0 when Troy Glaus hit a three-run bomb to give them a comfortable 5-0 lead.

Both Hargrove and Erickson said the constant trade rumors aren't distracting Erickson's concentration.

"I don't think so," Hargrove said. "He hasn't said anything to me about it and we talk a lot."

Said Erickson: "Rumors are rumors. [If you believe them] I've been traded 100 times already."

A two-run shot from Charles Johnson, his 13th homer of the season, made it 5-2 in the bottom of the third but in the top of the fourth, an umpire's mistake helped the Angels increase their lead to five again.

Erickson's first pitch to Benji Gill was so far inside it hit the end of his bat. But instead of showing strike one because of the foul, the scoreboard read ball one. After the count went to what should have been 2-2, Gil fouled off a pair of pitches then took another ball and was erroneously awarded a base on balls.

"I thought it was a 2-2 count… . I kept telling [the umpire] that first pitch was a foul ball," Hargrove said. "I guess he lost count… . It doesn't surprise me."

The mistake proved costly when Darren Erstad, the next batter, went deep to make it 7-2.

"I had good velocity today, a good slider, good sinker," Erickson said. "I just made a couple pitches in bad places and they ended up over the fence."

With the way 23-year-old Angels' starter Seth Etherton, who made just his fifth major league start, was controlling the Orioles, the mistake seemed irrelevant. Etherton allowed just three base-runners in the first six innings.

The Orioles finally solved Etherton in the seventh, getting two runs courtesy of Harold Baines and Brady Anderson, to make it 8-4.

Thanks to Jose Mercedes pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Erickson, the Orioles had a chance to rally. Baltimore got two runs in the ninth with a solo homer from Jeff Conine and another Anderson RBI single. With two outs Delino DeShields came to the plate representing the winning run, but he hit an innocent grounder to end the game.

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