- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Sometimes it seems like the Baltimore Orioles just don't know how to handle good fortune. Thursday night it was the hitters who failed to do their part as the Orioles fell to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2-1 before 14,108 at Tropicana Field.
"We pitched well and played good defense," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Sometimes you have to give the other team a lot of credit."
Thursday night marked the second consecutive game in which the Orioles squandered a solid performance from one of their starters. On Wednesday night, Mike Mussina allowed just two runs in seven innings, but the bullpen blew the lead.
This time it was Scott Erickson, who had his best start of the season after missing the first month recovering from March 3 elbow surgery. Erickson pitched an eight-inning complete game, allowing eight hits and walking just two.
As a result of the strong pitching, the game lasted just 2 hours, 6 minutes, the Orioles' quickest of the year.
Thursday night was the ninth straight strong start for the Orioles rotation, a span that has seen it post a 2.27 ERA. The team has won only three of those games, but Hargrove thinks the rotation's performance bodes well.
"The key component on getting where we want to be is that we pitch well," Hargrove said. "We just have to take advantage of these outings when these guys throw well."
Despite facing the Devil Rays, whose 18-34 mark is the worst in baseball, the Orioles managed only four runs the past two nights. Last night they were shut down by Bryan Rekar, who entered the game with a juicy 6.04 ERA but held the Orioles to just six hits. Baltimore's lone run came when Brady Anderson hit a one-out homer in the ninth that ended Rekar's evening.
In the only other inning in which the Orioles threatened, they ran themselves out of the inning. Albert Belle began the second with a single to left that he tried to stretch. He was nailed at second by Randy Winn on a play that wasn't even close.
That proved costly when Will Clark followed with a single, but he was erased when Cal Ripken grounded into yet another double play. The Orioles managed only three more hits until Anderson went deep. After his blast, Roberto Hernandez got the final two outs.
Erickson gave up a leadoff double to Winn to begin the first and he scored on a two-out single by Fred McGriff. In the fifth Felix Martinez led off with a single, stole second and scored on Gerald Williams' single.
Note Hargrove downplayed an injury to Mussina that was first reported in Thursday's Baltimore Sun. That report said Mussina felt "popping" in his throwing arm as a result of soreness he got taking batting practice in anticipation of interleague play, which begins Friday night with the Orioles in Montreal.
Hargrove said Mussina wasn't listed on the daily trainer's report, which usually includes even mild maladies, and that he expected him to make his next start Monday against the Mets in New York.

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