The New York media descended upon Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, behind the batting cage before last night's game. They wanted answers and got few.
The Yankees swarmed pitcher Scott Erickson about two hours later. They wanted runs and got plenty.
While Thrift remains in contact with baseball executives as the trade deadline approaches, the Orioles remain at a loss when playing the AL East leaders. They were handed an embarrassing one last night, with Erickson surviving only four innings and the Yankees piling on after he left in a 19-1 rout before 47,874 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (43-56) suffered the fourth-worst defeat in franchise history, and the worst in this ballpark. They're 2-6 against the Yankees this season with four games remaining, and have won a season series from them only once in the past 10 years. They're 17-33 against them at Camden Yards, and in jeopardy of falling 14 games below .500 for the first time this season if beaten tonight.
Erickson, whose trade value has dipped with each abbreviated outing, gave up eight runs and nine hits before manager Mike Hargrove made a change. He walked three and didn't record a strikeout. His last four starts have covered 21 1/3 innings. In that span, he's allowed 23 earned runs and 31 hits, and walked 15.
Hargrove removed Erickson after the Yankees scored four times in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead. Paul O'Neill hit a three-run homer to complete the damage against Erickson (5-8), who has lost five of his last eight starts.
Who knew they were only getting warmed up? The four pitchers who followed Erickson each gave up home runs, with Chuck McElroy surrendering a grand slam to Bernie Williams in the seventh.
"We didn't pitch well tonight, period," Hargrove said. "It was one of those nights where everything they swung at fell in. There's not a whole lot to talk about other than we got our butts kicked tonight, plain and simple."
The Yankees maintain interest in Orioles left fielder B. J. Surhoff, whose homer in the eighth off reliever Darrell Einertson broke up the shutout, but they needed no outside help with their offense last night. O'Neill drove in six runs and Williams delivered five. Derek Jeter drove in three runs and Jose Vizcaino singled his first four trips.
Jeter, who already had extended his hitting streak to 13 games, belted a two-run homer off Gabe Molina in the sixth. Ryan Thompson took Alan Mills deep in the eighth, and Clay Bellinger connected off Mike Timlin in the ninth before Tino Martinez singled for the Yankees' 20th hit. The Orioles' team ERA shot up from 5.83 this month to 6.47.
"It's never pretty when it happens," Hargrove said. "There's not a whole lot that happened today that was good out of this. We'll just move on tomorrow. There's nothing you can do about it now."
"You just have to accept it and go on," McElroy said. "You can't turn back the clock. You'd like to, but you can't. It's frustrating not only from the pitchers' point of view, but everybody."
No team in baseball manufactures runs like the Yankees, and their skills were on display in the first inning.
Vizcaino led off with an infield hit and took second on a poor throw from second baseman Delino DeShields. Jeter, with 13 hits in his last 26 at-bats, laid down a bunt to advance Vizcaino, who then scored on a single by O'Neill.
Nothing flashy, just unselfish and fundamentally sound. The same style that's brought three world championships in the last four years.
"The first couple innings, they didn't hit the ball hard at all. They certainly corrected that throughout the game," Hargrove said.
They threatened again in the second when Erickson walked Martinez and Jorge Posada with one out. Martinez moved to third when Ryan Thompson grounded into a force, but was left there when Charles Johnson threw out Thompson trying to steal.
It was the second break for Erickson in two innings, with Williams lining into a double play to end the first. He could have used a few more, like the Yankees getting lost on their way to the ballpark.
The Yankees almost lost their starter, Andy Pettitte, in the second inning when a sharp grounder from Jeff Conine struck his right shin. But the left-hander stayed in the game.
The Orioles couldn't do much with Pettitte last night, but what else is new? He's 11-2 in 17 career appearances against them.
He scattered eight hits over seven innings, walking two. He also extended Albert Belle's long-ball drought. By grounding out to end the first inning, Belle tied his career high with 92 straight at-bats without a homer. He flew to right his next time up before bouncing a single into center field.
An inability to convert their early chances sped up the Orioles' demise. They got one-out singles by Surhoff and Johnson in the second inning and pulled off a disputed double steal. Having gone 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Monday, they again failed to deliver in the clutch when Will Clark flied to shallow left and Matos grounded out.
Clark is playing with a bruised right shoulder, courtesy of a Roger Clemens fastball Monday.
The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but Johnson struck out and Clark was denied an extra-base hit by a diving Martinez at first. At that point, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. At that point, the outcome had been decided.