TONIGHT: Orioles run into another streak with Twins' Erickson on mound


As baseball's freshly minted streak-breakers, the Orioles now have another assignment.

The Minnesota pitcher they'll face tonight (7:35, HTS), Scott Erickson, has won 10 straight decisions. If he makes it 11, he'll break the Twins' record that he shares with Bert Blyleven and Ray Corbin.

Erickson, a righthander who is tied with California's Chuck Finley and Toronto's Jimmy Key for the American League lead in wins with 10, may be young, but his success comes as no real surprise. Last year, after being summoned from the minors June 21, he was 8-4 and tied Oakland's Dave Stewart for the majors' best September at 5-0.

Watching Erickson with interest last year was Roy Smith, pTC tonight's Orioles starter.

"I knew he'd be good," Smith said. "I'm not saying 10-2 at this point, but good. He has a great arm and great movement on his fastball."

Tom McCraw, the Orioles hitting coach, acknowledges Erickson has a nasty sinking fastball.

"You've got to make him get his sinker up," McCraw said after the Orioles snapped Minnesota's winning streak at 15 last night. "You do that, or try to, by taking the knee-high sinker because if it drops like it normally does, it'll drop out of the strike zone. Then you hope he gets it up a little."

All one can do is hope. After all, Erickson:

* Leads AL with a 1.60 earned run average;

* In his only two defeats, the Twins were shut out;

* Had a string of 30 scoreless innings;

* No Twin pitcher ever reached 10 wins this early.

And this, finally, about Mr. Erickson: Since last Sept. 1, his 15-2 record is the best in the majors.

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