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Angels win a battle of bulge

Anderson's RBI hit in eighth provides a two-run cushion, which is always useful in cozy Camden Yards, and they hang on to beat Orioles, 6-5.

July 26, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

BALTIMORE -- The Angels have seen enough leads, large and small, slip away in the bandbox that is Camden Yards to know that an early five-run cushion and a late one-run edge would not guarantee victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

So when Garret Anderson poked a run-scoring single to left in the top of the eighth off reliever Chad Bradford -- career hit No. 2,300 for the outfielder -- to put the Angels up by two, it was as if a blast of fresh oxygen had been pumped into the visitors' dugout.

"You don't want a one-run lead in the ninth inning in this park -- you can never get enough runs here," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "They get a guy on, [Kevin] Millar pops one out, all of a sudden it's game over."

Millar did pop one out with two outs in the ninth off closer Francisco Rodriguez, but the Baltimore first baseman's second homer of the game came with the bases empty.

Rodriguez then gave up a double to Brandon Fahey before getting Luke Scott to ground out, securing the Angels' 6-5 victory -- their eighth win in nine games -- and the reliever's major league-leading 43rd save.

"Garret's hit was big at the time," Manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels opened a 10-game trip to Baltimore, Boston and New York on a positive note, "and it ended up being bigger as the game moved on."

So was a defensive play by Anderson in the bottom of the inning on a high fly ball Melvin Mora hit to the gap. Anderson, who in his 14-year career has received as much criticism as praise for his defense, made about a 120-foot run before back-handing the ball at the warning track to help setup man Scot Shields to a scoreless eighth.

"I was playing [Mora] so far over and [Garret] looked at me like, 'You gonna get it?' " Hunter said. "I'm like, 'No.' We were looking at each other, talking with our eyes. I was shading him over to right-center. Garret had jets up his [back]. I saw blue smoke coming out. It was pretty sweet."

Anderson's eighth-inning hit and catch and Shields' seventh-inning bailout of starter Joe Saunders helped preserve the win for the Angels' left-hander, who improved to 13-5 with a 3.10 earned-run average.

With a 5-1 lead, Saunders got two outs in the seventh before giving up singles to Ramon Hernandez and Adam Jones, a walk to Millar and Jay Payton's two-run double to right-center.

Saunders walked Scott, his last pitch getting by catcher Jeff Mathis for a passed ball that allowed Millar to score to make it 5-4 as Payton took third.

But Shields came on and struck out leadoff batter Brian Roberts on three pitches, the last one a fastball down and away that Roberts took for strike three.

"I threw it as hard as I could and hit my spot," Shields said. "It was a good pitch to a good hitter."

Baltimore starter Brian Burres kept hitting the same spot -- the barrel of Angels bats. Hunter hit a two-run double to right-center in the first, and Juan Rivera (solo shot to left) and Casey Kotchman (two-run shot to right) hit home runs in the second for a 5-0 lead.

But relievers Dennis Sarfate and Alberto Castillo held the Angels hitless for 5 1/3 innings, giving the Orioles a chance to come back.

Though their bats went into sleep mode from the third through seventh innings, the Angels still scored at least six runs for the eighth time this month.

After scoring 201 runs in 54 games in May and June, an average of 3.7 a game, and hitting .242 during that span -- both American League lows -- the Angels are averaging 6.0 runs and batting .290 in July. They hit 20 home runs in 26 games in June. They have 24 in 19 games this month.

"Hopefully we'll be able to throw some runs up there and support the pitching staff a little bit," said Kotchman, who has 10 homers, one short of his career high. "Not that they necessarily need it, but they've been keeping the score down for us all year. It's nice to be able to score some runs for them."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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