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Ninth-Inning Rally Powers Angels, 7-6

May 21, 2003|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

With the potential go-ahead run on third base in the ninth inning Tuesday, two Angel batters stood between David Eckstein and an opportunity to complete an improbable comeback victory against the Baltimore Orioles.

But after Oriole reliever Jorge Julio intentionally walked Bengie Molina and pinch-hitter Shawn Wooten to load the bases, Eckstein got the chance he coveted and delivered, even if it wasn't exactly the kind of hit that he'll tell the grandkids about one day.

In fact, it wasn't a hit at all. Eckstein's sharp grounder that shortstop Deivi Cruz bobbled allowed Scott Spiezio to score the winning run as the Angels rallied for a 7-6 victory at Edison Field.

Spiezio, who hit a one-out triple high off the wall in right, scored when catcher Geronimo Gil couldn't catch Cruz's bouncing throw home.

"When you have a chance to win the game," said Eckstein, who did not receive a run batted in on the play, "you love to be in that situation."

The rally capped a game in which the Angels overcame their own ragged play and a four-run deficit for their 11th comeback win of the season, scoring twice in the ninth inning to send a crowd of 24,657 into a frenzy.

Troy Glaus, who homered twice and scored four runs, led off the ninth with a double into the left-field corner off the hard-throwing Julio. Brad Fullmer drove in Glaus with a single to right but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

The Orioles scored five runs in the first three innings after hitting two fly balls that landed on grass when they should have drawn leather.

The trouble started in the first inning with two out and a runner at second, when Jeff Conine hit a pop fly into shallow right-center field. Angel second baseman Adam Kennedy moved into position to make what would have been a nice play but watched the ball glance off his glove for a double, allowing Jerry Hairston to score.

Jay Gibbons followed with a run-scoring double over Tim Salmon's head in right field, and Tony Batista then delivered the big blow, a two-run homer into the Angel bullpen in left that made it 4-0.

After Glaus homered to pull the Angels a run closer, the Angel defense faltered again in the third. Salmon lost David Segui's fly ball to right and watched it bounce off the grass several feet away for a double. Conine brought Segui home for a 5-1 lead after ripping a double past a diving Glaus inside the third-base line.

"They outplayed us in almost every area and we came out with the win, so we'll take it," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Angel starter Kevin Appier allowed nine hits and five runs over 3 1/3 innings in his worst outing since returning from the disabled list May 8.

The Angels bailed out Appier after hitting their first consecutive home runs of the season in the fourth, when Glaus followed Garret Anderson's two-run blast on the next pitch with his second solo homer of the game to pull the Angels to within 5-4. Glaus' 157th homer put him fourth on the Angels' career list, ahead of Chili Davis.

Gibbons homered in the fifth to extend Baltimore's lead to 6-4, but Molina brought the Angels back to within a run in the seventh when he drove in Glaus with a double to left. The Angels completed the comeback in the ninth.

The Angels on Tuesday entered a stretch in which they play 12 consecutive games against the Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, teams they went a combined 15-3 against last season. Even though Baltimore and Tampa Bay appear entrenched at the bottom of the American League East once again, there is no guarantee they will be pushovers this time around -- especially if the Angels can't catch fly balls.

Said Eckstein: "It wasn't pretty out there tonight, but the main thing was we found a way to get it done."

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