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Birdbrained Play Helps Angels Win

Baseball: Anaheim takes 6-4 victory after Surhoff loses track of number of outs, stopping Oriole rally.

May 21, 1999|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BALTIMORE — And you thought the Angels had problems? The Baltimore Orioles lost a game Thursday night in which they had a runner on third tagged out at home by the Angel first baseman for a double play.

Confused? So was B.J. Surhoff, whose mental gaffe produced a bizarre cycle of sorts and helped pave the way for the Angels' 6-4 victory before 38,388 in Camden Yards.

Angel right fielder Todd Greene broke a 4-4 tie with a bases-empty homer, his third home run in four games, to start the sixth inning, and Troy Glaus' sacrifice fly, his first RBI since May 2, gave the Angels a 6-4 lead in the eighth.

The Orioles threatened in the bottom of the eighth when Surhoff singled with one out, Albert Belle walked and Harold Baines singled sharply to right, loading the bases.

Angel reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa got Jeff Conine to pop to the right of the plate, and Angel first baseman Chris Pritchett raced in for the catch.

Surhoff thought there were two out and jogged down the third base line. He crossed the plate, took his helmet off, and not until Pritchett tagged him did Surhoff realize his mistake.

"That was absolutely the most bizarre double play I've ever seen," Angel Manager Terry Collins said. "Especially with the bases loaded."

And especially considering who was on third. Surhoff is a 13-year veteran and one of the game's smarter players.

"If I had to pick one guy on that roster to make that mistake, he'd be the last guy," said Angel pitcher Tim Belcher, who gave up four runs on seven hits in seven innings to earn his second straight victory.

Oriole Manager Ray Miller, asked if Surhoff was the last player on his team he'd expect that from, said: "No, he's the last guy on Earth."

There was empathy for Surhoff in the Angel clubhouse. "I feel bad for the guy," designated hitter Mo Vaughn said. "He's the heart and soul of that team, and for that to happen . . ."

There was no sympathy, though. The Angels have had their share of bad breaks, mostly bones and ligaments and cartilage, "and we'll take 'em any way we can," said Pritchett, who also laid down a sacrifice bunt in the eighth and made a diving stop of Delino DeShields' grounder in the second.

The Angels scored four in the second, two on Andy Sheets' bases-loaded single, one on Oriole catcher Charles Johnson's throwing error and one on Darin Erstad's single, his first RBI since May 8.

Baltimore countered with Cal Ripken's RBI double in the second and a three-run fifth, which included Ripken's leadoff homer, Mike Bordick's RBI double and Surhoff's RBI single.

But Belcher, teetering on the brink of collapse, got Albert Belle to pop out to end the fifth and retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh. Troy Percival pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 10th save.

"We pitched just well enough, we scored just enough, and we took advantage of mistakes," Belcher said. "That was definitely a hard-hat win."

One that was preserved by a boneheaded play.

"I made an inexcusable mistake," Surhoff said. "Somewhere along the line I talked myself into thinking there was two outs. When the popup went up, I went home. It's nobody's fault but my own."

So, what do you call a play where a guy on third is tagged out at home by the first baseman for a double play?

"I'd call it a lack of oxygen," Angel pitcher Chuck Finley said. "But we need that kind of luck."

They also need offensive production from players not named Mo. Garret Anderson had three hits, two of them doubles, and Sheets, who won Wednesday night's game with a two-run double in the ninth, came up with another clutch hit Thursday night.

Greene also shifted the momentum back to the Angels when he slammed Jason Johnson's first pitch of the sixth, a hanging curve, into the left-field seats for a 5-4 lead.

"Any time you score after the other team has tied the game, it takes the air out of their ball," said Greene, who has been criticized for swinging wildly at too many first pitches.

"I'm not worried about hitting the first or second or third pitch. I go up there to hit. Sometimes I look bad, sometimes I don't. But I've got to swing hard in case I hit it."

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