Orioles suffer 8th loss in a row


ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Orioles have implemented their own work stoppage at Edison International Field. They've prohibited the rally monkey from appearing in this series.

He isn't needed on the giant video screen, with his frenetic bouncing that supposedly helps the Anaheim Angels overcome late-inning deficits. With the Orioles trailing early the past two nights, a crowd favorite has been shut down.

Is Scott Erickson headed for the same treatment?

Given another turn in the rotation, Erickson gave up seven straight hits in the second inning, including a three-run homer to Bengie Molina and a bases-clearing double by Orlando Palmeiro in the Angels' 9-0 victory last night before 38,563.

Palmeiro's double to center field increased the Angels' lead to 6-0, enabled them to tie the club record for consecutive hits in an inning, and sent Erickson to the dugout. Erickson (5-12) retired only four of the 12 batters he faced and needed a leaping catch from Chris Singleton on the warning track to save a run in the first.

It was the second-shortest outing of Erickson's career - he lasted two-thirds of an inning in a 1991 start for the Minnesota Twins - and probably assured his removal from the rotation after rosters expand.

"I don't expect to start for a while," said Erickson, who is two years removed from ligament-transplant surgery on his right elbow. "You've got to earn it, and obviously I haven't done that. I'm not too concerned with what my role is. I'm not getting people out, and the last thing I want to do is keep putting my teammates in this position.

"I'm not going to panic. I know I can get people out. It's just a little bit of a jinx, I guess. It's not a lack of confidence or anything like that. I know I can do the job."

The Orioles (63-71) have lost eight in a row, their longest streak of the season, and fallen eight games below .500 for the first time in 2002. Their last win came Aug. 23 against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards, when they rallied from a 6-0 deficit.

That game also represented Erickson's most recent start until last night. He pitched once in relief, throwing two scoreless innings last Sunday, as manager Mike Hargrove pushed him back in the rotation.

The time off didn't bring the desired changes. "He was good down," Hargrove said. "Then in the second inning, all of a sudden everything got up. Molina hit a hanging slider. Everything was up."

Erickson has posted a 12.17 ERA in his past eight starts, allowing 75 runners in 30 1/3 innings. His season's ERA has jumped from 4.07 to 5.55. Limited to one victory since July 16, he reached 93 mph with his fastball last night but couldn't get the desired movement or results.

"It's incomprehensible what's going wrong," Erickson said. "I've never pitched in this situation before. I have no answers to why things are so bad, but obviously something needs to be changed. I'm not going to blame not pitching much for the last two years. The ball is finding the bat. I have no explanations. I felt great. I can't blame it on anything."

Hargrove said the club's rotation is mostly set for the remainder of the season, with the exception of a Sept. 10 makeup doubleheader in New York against the Yankees and a possible spot start four days later. He wouldn't reveal any names - presidents aren't guarded this closely - or commit to Erickson beyond last night's game.

"He's going to start," Hargrove said about 90 minutes before the first pitch, "and we'll talk about it from there."

Reminded of his comments after the game, Hargrove said, "We've already discussed it, but I don't want to say anything now."

Much of the conversation centers around Sidney Ponson and Pat Hentgen. Ponson is expected to come off the disabled list today after the pain subsided from a small tear in his right labrum, while Hentgen makes what could be his last rehabilitation start in Aberdeen.

Erickson was facing an Angels team that hadn't given him much trouble in the past. He was 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 26 career games, matching his highest win total against any opponent. He has also beaten the Detroit Tigers 16 times.

His problems last night masked another sluggish effort from the offense, which has been no-hit through 5 1/3 innings in both games of this series. Geronimo Gil has ended the drama each time with a single into right field, breaking up Ramon Ortiz's perfect game last night.

Ortiz (11-9) retired the first 16 batters before allowing three straight singles to load the bases. He struck out Luis Lopez, who made two dazzling plays at shortstop, and retired Chris Richard on a shallow fly to left. A routine ninth gave Ortiz his first major-league shutout, and the Angels their 13th.

Anaheim increased its lead to 9-0 in the fifth, and set off more fireworks, on Adam Kennedy's two-run homer off Chris Brock. When the smoke cleared, literally, the Angels were looking even more like a playoff team. They now lead Seattle by 2 1/2 games for the American League's wild card.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Anaheim Angels

Site:Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.


TV/Radio:No TV/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (14-6, 3.31) vs. Angels' John Lackey (6-3, 3.23)

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