BALTIMORE — A thrilling walk-off victory for the Angels on Sunday turned into a limp-off victory and then a carry-off victory.
Catcher Mike Napoli, whose eighth-inning home run gave the Angels an insurance run, caught Vladimir Guerrero's throw from right field and survived a violent encounter with Melvin Mora to complete a game-ending double play as the Angels held on for a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards.
"I think about that play, about someone pummeling me and holding on to the ball to win the game, all the time," Napoli said. "It's like a walk-off home run for me.... When you catch a winner, get an RBI and hit a homer, it's a perfect day for me."
Well, except for the fact that Napoli wound up on crutches, with his left shin and foot in a protective boot, and may have to go on the disabled list. Initial X-rays showed no fractures, but Napoli thinks he may have suffered a high ankle sprain.
"It's pretty sore," Napoli said. "I'll see how it feels [today]."
With runners on first base and third base and one out, after Mora doubled and Jay Payton bunted for a single against closer Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Roberts lifted a fly to shallow right field, where Guerrero raced in to make a basket catch.
Mora tested the strong-armed Guerrero, who fired a laser to Napoli but up the first base line. Napoli caught the ball and thrust his left leg toward Mora to block the plate.
Mora slid hard, feet first, suffering a bruised right foot, and a piece of Napoli's shin guard went flying. Napoli held on and applied the tag, and umpire Gerry Davis ruled Mora out to end the game.
The Angels poured out of their dugout, and Napoli hobbled toward the mound to congratulate Rodriguez before crumpling to the ground. The celebration turned into a congregation around the fallen catcher, who had to be carried off the field and into the clubhouse.
"You respect that as a teammate, as a friend and as a man," pitcher John Lackey, who gave up three runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings to gain the victory, said of Napoli's grit. "He wants to win, and that's why he's on this team."
Manager Mike Scioscia, the former Dodgers catcher who survived a few harrowing plate collisions, could appreciate Napoli's effort.
"It feels a lot better when you do it and win a game," Scioscia said. "Sometimes, the other team is celebrating as you're limping off the field. Mike is going to stick himself in there, no matter the situation. He's a tough kid."
The Angels also survived a white-knuckle eighth inning, thanks to the relief efforts of Scot Shields and Rodriguez, who, with one out, held the tying run at third base and the go-ahead run at second base.
After giving up a two-run homer to Payton in the second inning, Lackey held Baltimore hitless from the third through seventh innings before giving up a leadoff double to Roberts and Chris Gomez's single in the eighth.
With runners on first base and third base, Lackey, who was selected to the American League All-Star team Sunday, along with Guerrero and Rodriguez, struck out Corey Patterson, and Scioscia pulled the starter in favor of Shields, who hasn't given up a run in 16 appearances, a span of 19 2/3 innings.
Ramon Hernandez grounded a hit-and-run single to left field, scoring Roberts to make it 4-3 and moving pinch-runner Freddie Bynum to third base. Outfielder Nick Gorneault's one-hop throw to second base caromed off Howie Kendrick's glove and toward the mound, allowing Hernandez to take second.
With the infield in, Shields got Nick Markakis to ground to second, the runners holding, and Rodriguez got Kevin Millar to pop to second.
The Angels scored three runs against Jeremy Guthrie in the third inning, which included Chone Figgins' single, Guerrero's run-scoring double and a two-run homer by Casey Kotchman, which ended an 0-for-19 skid.
Napoli's homer in the eighth inning, a line drive to left field, proved to be the game winner, and his guts led to more glory in the ninth.
"Mike did a great job," Scioscia said. "He didn't give Melvin an opening."