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Clemens strikes back at O's Erickson out-dueled this time as Blue Jay gets 12th victory, 3-0

Roger Clemens didn't leave too early last night. Locked in a tense pitching duel with Orioles right-hander Scott Erickson for the second time in a week, Clemens stayed just a little bit longer and the Toronto Blue Jays came out on top, 3-0, before 47,617 at Camden Yards.

In a near replay of the game Saturday at SkyDome, Erickson and Clemens traded scoreless innings well into the night before the Orioles right-hander finally blinked in the eighth inning.

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The Blue Jays scored three runs off Erickson and two Orioles relievers, and this time, the Toronto bullpen would hold onto Clemens' league-leading and well-deserved 12th victory of the year. He gave up five hits over 7 1/3 innings to win for the first time since June 6.

No doubt, the Orioles would have preferred a true replay of Saturday's game, complete with the early exit by an overheated Clemens after a seven-inning, four-hit performance. The Orioles rallied for five runs in the late innings to win that game, but went down without much of a fight after Clemens threw 122 pitches and worked into the eighth inning last night.

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"You're going all out every inning, especially against a team like the Orioles," Clemens said. "Yeah, I was spent, but if the bullpen was spent, I gotta stay in there. That's the bottom line. I don't ever want to come out of any game. I want to finish what I start but when [manager] Cito [Gaston] came out, I was tired. I don't think I was the best man."

The combined six-hit shutout -- accomplished with the help of relievers Dan Plesac and Mike Timlin -- was the fourth shutout suffered by the depleted Orioles' starting lineup in the past eight games. Help supposedly is on the way, but the Orioles would have had more of a fighting chance if they had been able to keep last night's starting lineup intact longer than one inning.

Umpire Ted Barrett ejected designated hitter B. J. Surhoff in the bottom of the first for allegedly arguing a ball/strike call from the dugout, a charge that the mild-mannered Orioles outfielder heavily disputed after the game. Barrett also ran manager Davey Johnson for disputing the ejection, leaving hitting coach Rick Down as the substitute manager and slumping Pete Incaviglia in designated hitter spot.

Johnson still was fuming 3 1/2 hours later.

"I was very upset about the manner in which it was handled," Johnson said. "He threw out my cleanup hitter and I think it was a bad judgment. I think it was very unprofessional."

Surhoff insisted that he was picked arbitrarily out of crowded dugout. Crew chief Al Clark claimed that Surhoff was clearly visible shouting toward home plate.

Eight innings later, though, there was nothing left to do but give Clemens the credit he was due.

"I'm not embarrassed we got shut out by Roger Clemens," Johnson said. "It was a pretty good game. It came down to just a hit here and there."

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The Blue Jays finally got the ones that counted. Erickson allowed a leadoff single to ninth-place hitter Tilson Brito in the eighth and then walked Otis Nixon, who would have been happy to lay down a sacrifice bunt if he had gotten the chance. Left-hander Jesse Orosco came on to walk Orlando Merced to load the bases, before Armando Benitez gave up back-to-back singles to Joe Carter and Carlos Delgado to bring home the three Toronto runs.

"Scotty threw outstanding," Johnson said, "but he got a ball up to Brito and couldn't throw a strike on a guy bunting. As usually happens, those runs scored."

Clemens did not appear to be as overpowering as he was during the first nine weeks of the season, when he won his first 11 decisions. He had to work out of trouble twice in the early innings last night.

The Orioles had two runners on and one out in the first inning, but Surhoff flied out and Cal Ripken bounced into a force at third to end the inning. Clemens allowed the last two hitters in the Orioles batting order to reach base with two outs in the second, but got Brady Anderson to bounce weakly to first to end the threat.

Clemens settled into a better rhythm in the middle innings, retiring 13 straight batters -- seven of them on strikes -- in one stretch as he and Erickson carried the scoreless tie well into the drizzly night.

Erickson was almost as effective, giving up only a double to Shawn Green and a bunt single to Nixon through the first five innings on the way to a seven-inning, four-hit performance that should have been worth more than his third loss in 13 decisions. Through 15 starts, he has never failed to complete five innings and has gotten the Orioles to the seventh 12 times.

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Last night, he had to overcome a rare defensive lapse by second baseman Roberto Alomar to keep the shutout alive through the sixth. Nixon had opened the inning with an opposite-field single and Merced followed with a bouncer to second that Alomar normally turns into a routine double play, but Alomar spun around and bounced the throw past second for an error.

That brought Carter to the plate with two on, no one out and the Blue Jays a hit away from the only run they might need with Clemens very much on his game, but an ill-advised double-steal attempt got Erickson a free out when Lenny Webster gunned Nixon out at third. Erickson would walk Carter, but got Carlos Delgado on a weak bouncer to second and then struck out Ed Sprague to get out of the inning.

The Orioles would threaten in the bottom of the seventh, when singles by Ripken and Dave Dellucci put runners at first and third with one out, but Webster went first-ball fishing and bounced out to the drawn up infield before Mike Bordick struck out on a full-count pitch to end the inning. Then Erickson blinked, and there was no margin for error.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: Camden Yards

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Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Blue Jays' Robert Person (2-5, 4.94) vs. O's Scott Kamieniecki (6-3, 3.87).

Tickets: Fewer than 300.

Pub Date: 6/27/97


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