The Baltimore Orioles thought they were past this point, where their starting pitcher can't make it out of the third inning and their bullpen can't do anything but pile on runs. The Orioles have appeared on the verge of turning a major corner lately, but today they offered another reminder of why they remain in last place in their division.
Starter Scott Erickson, whose April struggles helped bury the Orioles in the standings and whose May renaissance was partly responsible for their improved fortunes, regressed today in an 11-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics in front of 18,320 at Network Associates Coliseum.
One day after the Orioles staged an impressive comeback in a 7-5 win, Erickson got battered for 3 1/3 innings, putting the Orioles in a 7-1 hole. With today being getaway day for the Orioles, who headed up the coast to Seattle after the game, another spirited comeback was out of the question.
"It was a very disappointing performance from Scotty," said Manager Ray Miller. "Obviously, he didn't have it today, and I don't know why. He was popping the ball pretty nicely in the bullpen [before the game]. He just didn't bring it in the game with him. . . . We should be able to hold this club to three or four runs, I would think. Most clubs do."
Relievers Ricky Bones and Rocky Coppinger were pounded for four more runs, two of which scored on Matt Stairs's triple to right off Bones, which right fielder Albert Belle bungled at the wall.
The Orioles (19-30) headed to Seattle carrying a 3-3 record on this nine-game road trip. For the season, they are only 15-14 when scoring five or more runs.
"I have no excuses for that one," Erickson said. "I made some bad pitches, and they hit them."
Erickson (1-7) won 15 games last year but completed the first two months of this season with only one win. "I've never been 1-7 before," he said. "It's frustrating. But I feel good. I feel healthy. I've been totally prepared when I got on the field."
Erickson went 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA during April, but was 1-1 with a 3.72 earned run average for the month of May entering today. Before today, he had pitched at least seven innings in four of his last five starts.
"That's why I felt pretty good about this one, coming off his last two starts," Miller said. "This park was built for Scotty, with that sinker."
But when Erickson's sinker stays flat, things can get ugly fast. The A's first batter of the game was an omen. Tony Phillips cracked a line drive that hit Erickson square in the glove, trickling away for an infield hit.
What followed was a barrage of rockets and bombs -- doubles by Miguel Tejada, Stairs and Mike Macfarlane, the last with the bases loaded, giving Oakland a 5-0 lead. By the second, it was 7-0, after John Jaha's two-run homer to left. The majority of the A's hits in the first came on fastballs; in the second, mostly sliders.
"It's very disappointing to me," said catcher Charles Johnson, "because I try to do my best to call a game. With his kind of stuff, to see it get hit like that, it's very frustrating."
The Orioles had Bones, their top right-handed long reliever, up three times in the first three innings, before Miller finally removed Erickson with two outs in the third.
"I wanted to give the bullpen a break heading into Seattle, which is a pretty good club," Erickson said. "But I guess Ray had seen enough, and I really had no reason to argue."
Said Miller: "Scotty wanted to pitch more innings, but I felt we still had a chance."
Conceivably, if Belle had made the play on Stairs's two-run triple to right in the fifth -- instead of jumping a few feet short of the wall and missing the ball completely -- the Orioles might have had a chance. Instead, the A's stretched their lead to 10-3.
The Orioles' offense consisted of solo homers by Harold Baines, B.J. Surhoff and Brady Anderson, and little else.
Handed plentiful chances early on to bash A's starter Mike Oquist, an Orioles castoff, the Orioles stranded seven runners in the first four innings, including three in scoring position. And the way Erickson pitched, they couldn't afford squandered runs.
"It's disappointing because we've been pitching so well," Miller said. "You almost come to the park expecting it. And when you don't, it sets you back."
Data: Orioles at Seattle Mariners, today at 8:05 p.m., Tuesday at 10:05 p.m., Wednesday at 10:35 p.m.
Radio: WTOP-1500, WBAL-1090, WTOP-FM-107.7, WMJS-FM-92.7.
Records: Orioles 19-30; Mariners 25-24.
Pitchers: Tonight -- Orioles RHP Sidney Ponson (5-3, 4.20 ERA) vs. Mariners LHP Jamie Moyer (5-4, 5.50); Tuesday -- Juan Guzman (2-4, 5.23) vs. Freddy Garcia (6-1, 4.26); Wednesday -- Mike Mussina (7-2, 4.21) vs. Jeff Fassero (3-6, 7.34).
CAPTION: Scott Erickson, right, allows five runs in first, eight hits overall.
CAPTION: Eric Chavez arrives at third before throw to Jeff Reboulet during Athletics' three-run fifth. Chavez had three of Oakland's 16 hits off three pitchers.