- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

BALTIMORE There is little doubt who the workhorse of the Baltimore Orioles' pitching staff is. Throughout his 12-year career, Scott Erickson has always taken pride in his ability to eat up innings as much as any pitcher in the game.

There is a difference, however, between pitching a ton of innings and earning the win in the games you start. And right now, Erickson isn't winning any games, no matter how many pitches he throws.

Never was this more painfully true than last night at Camden Yards, when Erickson (3-7) threw seemingly everything he had at the New York Yankees but twice fell victim to the colossal bat of Jason Giambi. The result was a 3-2 loss for the Orioles before a sellout crowd of 48,057 and an extension of Erickson's winless streak.

"Scotty threw the ball very, very well. He looked as strong or stronger when he came out as when he started," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "We didn't give anything away tonight. The Yankees just beat us tonight."

The veteran right-hander failed to pick up the win for the 11th straight start, an ominous streak that dates back to an April 28 shutout at Kansas City. He offered up one of his best performances of the season last night, striking out 10 over eight gutsy innings in which he threw a season-high 133 pitches, but was done in by two pitches to Giambi.

"Sooner or later, he's going to get his wins," Orioles outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said. "He seems to be getting stronger and stronger."

The Orioles, meanwhile, missed a chance at a rare three-game sweep of the Yankees and a .500 record. They instead settled for two of three from their AL East rivals, with all three games decided by one run.

On another hot and muggy night in Baltimore, the teams were forced to wait out a 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the first inning. The interruption didn't seem to affect either starting pitcher, both of whom came out and pitched in their usually effective manner.

Yankees left-hander David Wells was particularly sharp early on, striking out the side in the second, including Jay Gibbons on a nasty 72-mph curveball.

Wells looked vulnerable only in the third, though it wasn't entirely his fault. Jose Leon led off with a groundball to shortstop, but Derek Jeter slipped on the wet grass and Leon was credited with a single. An opposite-field double by Brook Fordyce put runners on second and third, and a single just inside the third-base line by Melvin Mora gave the Orioles their first run. When Wells threw a pitch in the dirt to the next batter, Fordyce sprinted home to make it 2-0.

That was all Wells (8-5) was going to give up on this night. He departed with two outs in the seventh, giving way to setup man Steve Karsay and then closer Mariano Rivera, who pitched a perfect ninth in his first save situation since coming off the disabled list.

Erickson, meanwhile, cruised through his first three innings before running into the buzzsaw that is Giambi in the fourth. The Yankees slugger crushed a first-pitch fastball from Erickson to center field for his first homer of the night and 20th of the season.

Two innings later, with Baltimore still clinging to a 2-1 lead, Erickson appeared to hit the wall. Jeter led off with a single, then stole second with Giambi at the plate. Having already paid the price for a misplaced fastball, Erickson went to his slider with the count 2-1. The end result was exactly the same Giambi went down and launched it over the right-field fence to give New York its first lead of the night.

Despite his starter's sudden struggles, manager Mike Hargrove stuck with Erickson (3-7), though the veteran right-hander needed a groundball off the bat of Rondell White to quash a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth.

And though he had right-hander Rick Bauer and lefty B.J. Ryan warming in the bullpen, Hargrove left Erickson in the game to pitch the seventh and the eighth innings, even though his pitch count had surpassed 110.

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