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Angels Help Erickson Recover

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scott Erickson hadn’t won a game in a month. He had given up six or more earned runs in each of his last three starts, his earned-run average ballooning from 3.07 to 5.20 in the process.

But surely the Baltimore right-hander must have awakened Sunday morning feeling strangely confident. After all, the cure for all that ailed him was close at hand: Take a handful of Angels and go to bed feeling better.

Sure enough, Erickson was back on track in no time and the sense of relief had washed over him long before he had recorded his 10th consecutive victory over the Angels.

Erickson sat in the shade of the visitors dugout and watched his teammates spin around the bases at a dizzying, Disneyland-tea-cup-ride pace en route to a 10-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings. Then he moseyed out to the mound and mowed down the Angels as usual, giving up only six hits--a couple of them infield singles and never more than two in any inning--as the Orioles coasted to a 14-1 victory.

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In 12 career starts against the Angels, Erickson is 11-1. At Anaheim Stadium, he’s 5-0 in five starts with a 2.87 ERA. If he knows the magic behind his mastery of the Angels, however, Erickson isn’t divulging the secret.

“There’s no reason, it’s just pure luck,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

Still, six seasons of domination must provide an increased level of confidence when he takes the mound to face them.

“I feel confident every time I go out to pitch,” he said. “Pitching against them is no different than anyone else.”

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OK, how about that comfort zone at Anaheim Stadium where he has won every time he’s started?

“I like all outdoor stadiums,” he says.

Erickson wasn’t the only one who was baffled Sunday, but at least the Angels had an inkling of what had happened to them.

“He’s got a great sinker and he gets a lot of groundball outs,” shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. “And then when he gets a lead like that, he’s going to just keep throwing that sinker and he’s not going to be messing around trying to paint the corners.”

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Indeed, Erickson did not walk a batter Sunday.

“Not walking guys, that’s important when you’ve got a big lead or no lead,” Erickson said.

So, were there any keys to Sunday’s outing?

“I kept my concentration, which can be hard to do when you have a big lead,” he said. “And I kept the ball down, which is my forte. If I get the ball up, I get hit hard.”

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Erickson got a great deal of attention for wearing black socks when he came up to the majors with Minnesota--now, with some sports stars wearing dresses, black socks don’t cause much of a ruckus--but by 1991, his first full season in the big leagues, he was earning headlines with his arm.

He was 20-8 with a 3.18 ERA in ’91 and came in second to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young Award balloting. He lost his first two games before beating the Angels and then won 12 in a row.

He has never again sustained that level of performance, except when he’s pitching against the Angels, but his sagging career was revived last season when the Twins traded him to Baltimore for pitcher Scott Klingenbeck and a player to be named (Kimera Bartee). Erickson finished the season 9-4 with seven complete games, all seven with the Orioles.

Baltimore Manager Davey Johnson isn’t sure why Erickson is so high on the all-time Angel killer list, but he apparently thinks it’s more than coincidence.

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“He did a lot of good things out there today,” Johnson said. “He stayed back, he didn’t try to overthrow his slider, in fact, he took a little off his slider and when he does that, he can be really nasty.

“But, yeah, we may have to make sure he starts when these guys come through next time.”

Fortunately for the Angels, that won’t be until late August.


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