- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Win or lose, Scott Erickson rarely reveals his emotions. So those who were expecting the veteran pitcher to rejoice openly over his first shutout in three years yesterday were disappointed to find out that Erickson didn't necessarily consider his sixth start since elbow surgery a breakthrough moment.
"I don't think that just because I went out and threw nine innings means that my elbow is better than it ever was before," said Erickson, whose four-hit shutout led the Baltimore Orioles to a 13-0 thrashing of the Kansas City Royals and capped his team's first three-game series sweep since September 2000.
Erickson says the best indicator that he is truly all the way back from Tommy John surgery will be once his fastball returns to the mid-90s (he's a couple of mph under that mark right now). He doesn't want to put too much stock in a 124-pitch outing that clearly constitutes his best performance since making his return this spring.
"It turned out the best," sad Erickson, whose last shutout came Sept. 7, 1999, against the Minnesota Twins. "Not that it matters, but I didn't even strike anybody out. So it's not like I was dominating, overpowering. I was just lucky that balls were hit at people today."
Aside from two walks issued, the Royals put everything into play against Erickson. And everything seemed to be hit directly at someone wearing a Baltimore uniform, particularly those in the infield. Seventeen of Erickson's 27 outs were recorded on ground balls a sure sign that his sinker was in top form.
"When Scotty's pitching and he's got that sinker going, you have to be ready," said rookie Mike Moriarty, who made a rare start at second base for Jerry Hairston and wound up with five assists. "You definitely have to make the plays behind Scotty because that's his game: giving up a lot of ground balls."
Moriarty was nearly the subject of a major-league controversy after he misplayed a ball in the first inning but was not charged with an error. Having already retired the first two batters of the game on cleanly fielded grounders, Moriarty tripped over his own feet on Carlos Beltran's two-hopper and made a wild throw to first base. Jeff Conine thought he tagged Beltran on the back, but Beltran was ruled safe and the Kauffman Stadium official scorer awarded him with a hit.
What's the big deal about that? Erickson didn't give up another hit until there were two outs in the seventh, meaning for six full innings he was one bad call away from a no-hitter.
"I guess it was wet up the middle and my feet went out from under me and they gave him a hit," said Moriarty, who also picked up his first career double and two RBI in the fourth inning. "If it wasn't for that, he had a no-hitter through six, and I was thinking, 'Oh, my God.' I was feeling pretty small at the time."
As it turned out, Erickson (3-2) gave up three clean hits in his final three innings, quashing any potential controversy. And with his team ahead 13 runs, the only real question at that point was whether he would finish off his 49th career complete game and 17th shutout.
Though he had Willis Roberts warming in the bullpen, Hargrove let Erickson close things out, which the veteran did without surpassing Hargrove's standard 125-pitch limit.
Given what Erickson has gone through over the last two years, Hargrove also wanted to give his staff ace the chance to toss a complete game.
"I would think that would be kind of a psychological barrier you'd have to break, to come back and get your first complete game after going through Tommy John surgery," he said. "I'm happy for him. I'm happier for us."
The Orioles manager had plenty of reasons aside from Erickson to be happy yesterday. His once-stagnant offense exploded for 13 runs and 15 hits, capping off a dominating three-game series against the beleaguered Royals, who are on the verge of firing manager Tony Muser.
The Orioles racked up 32 runs in three games against Kansas City, one more than they totaled in their previous eight games. Designated hitter Marty Cordova led yesterday's attack with his ninth career four-hit game. Eight of nine players reached base at least twice against five Royals pitchers, including starter Bryan Rekar (0-2).
Winners in seven of their last nine games, the third-place Orioles improved to 11-13 on the season and head to Boston trailing the AL East leaders by 5 games.
"It's nice to come in and win and to win three in a row," Hargrove said. "Especially after the way we started. You just want to continue to do that."
Designated hitter David Segui, who had his left hand stepped on Friday night, sat out his second straight game yesterday and likely will miss tonight's series opener in Boston.
The Orioles have won three straight series for the first time since beating the Tigers, Twins, Angels and Rangers in succession last May.

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