- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

SEATTLE Both Scott Erickson and Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove were pleased to see the right-hander routinely hit 94 mph on the Safeco Field radar gun Friday night, the first time Erickson has shown that kind of velocity since his return from Tommy John surgery.
But as Erickson pointed out following the Orioles' 6-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, "It's pretty obvious that velocity's not the most important thing when it comes to pitching."
Despite Erickson's steady climb back to pre-surgery physical form, he still has yet to pitch consistently the way he did before going under the knife in August 2000.
That includes Friday night's haphazard start in which Erickson allowed one hit and struck out five in his first three innings, then served up six straight hits (including two homers) to open the fifth. The result was his fifth loss of the season to go with three wins none since April 28.
Erickson's sudden collapse in the fifth had Hargrove baffled.
"I have no idea what it was a case of," Hargrove said. "His sinker flattened out, and his breaking ball flattened out. Everything was over the middle of the plate. You can't do that to a good-hitting ballclub, and the Mariners made us pay."
Seattle's five-run explosion, highlighted by home runs by Mark McLemore and Ruben Sierra, knocked Erickson out of the game before he could record an out in the inning.
"Basically, the same thing happened on two pitches," Erickson said. "I tried to go inside on McLemore and Sierra, both balls tailed right back down the middle, and they didn't miss them."
The six runs off Erickson were more than enough offensive support for Seattle ace Freddy Garcia (5-4), who dominated for seven innings, allowing just three hits though two were solo home runs by Tony Batista and Melvin Mora.
Amazingly, the loss was the Orioles' 14th in as many games at Safeco Field another baffling occurrence for which they have no answer, other than to point to how successful the Mariners have been since moving to the ballpark during the 1999 season.
And there certainly was no good explanation for designated hitter Marty Cordova's night. One of Baltimore's most consistent hitters all season and the owner of a .315 batting average, Cordova experienced a ballplayer's worst nightmare: 0-for-4, four strikeouts.

Roberts' rebound
Willis Roberts, who spent time both as a starter and as a closer for the Orioles last year, has become something of a lost man in the Baltimore bullpen this season. With four shutout innings Friday night in relief of Erickson, though, the flamboyant right-hander offered a reminder of what he can do when he's in top form. The Mariners managed just one hit and two walks off Roberts, who has not allowed a run in 11 of his last 15 outings, lowering his season ERA to 2.28.
There's little chance of Roberts ascending back to closing duties with the Orioles, who have given the role to 23-year-old fireballer Jorge Julio, but they still foresee good things from him.
"I'd like to see him be a drop-dead, slam-dunk set-up guy," Hargrove said. "That's a very valuable role, and I'd like for him to be very consistent in that role. With his stuff, he can do that."

Extra bases
With a double Friday night, center fielder Chris Singleton extended his hitting streak to 13 games, matching the career high he set from May 26-June 14 last year with the White Sox.
The Orioles will provide two books for each of nearly 13,000 first-graders in Washington and Baltimore public schools as part of the team's program to promote summer reading. Upper reserved seats at Camden Yards for Sunday's game against the Mariners may be purchased for $13, $5 of which will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.

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