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Late offensive surge carries Angels to victory

Vladimir Guerrero hits a three-run home run in the eighth inning to help keep the Angels tied for first place in the AL West.

July 05, 2009|JIM PELTZ

If you're the Angels' 21-year-old Sean O'Sullivan and trying to make your mark as a major league pitcher, it helps to have the best hitting team in the American League on your side.

But even that wasn't enough for O'Sullivan to keep his job Saturday night.

Making only his fourth big league start, O'Sullivan was tagged for four runs and nine hits by the Baltimore Orioles early in the game.

The Angels, with five .300 hitters in their lineup, came to O'Sullivan's rescue, battering Baltimore relief pitching and cruising past the Orioles, 11-4, at Anaheim Stadium.

A six-run eighth inning, capped by a three-run home run by designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, blew the game open for the Angels, who had 17 hits overall, in front of 41,764.

That took O'Sullivan off the hook, leaving the San Diego native with two wins and two no decisions in his young career. Jason Bulger (3-1) picked up the victory in relief.

O'Sullivan left the game after throwing 94 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, and the Angels bullpen then held the Orioles scoreless.

"Sean threw a lot of pitches early in the game," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But he was aggressive in the zone, he was challenging those guys. In the third inning they bunched some hits, outside of that I think he did a nice job."

But after the game -- and after O'Sullivan and Scioscia had given their postgame interviews -- the Angels announced that O'Sullivan would be sent to triple-A Salt Lake, with outfielder Reggie Willits called up to replace him on the roster.

O'Sullivan said his control "was all right, it's been better. I just tried to keep us in the game as long as I could and let the offense take over."

Holding a 5-4 in the eighth inning, the Angels had Maicer Izturis at third base and Mike Napoli at first base when Chone Figgins doubled, driving in Izturis.

After Bobby Abreu was intentionally walked to load the bases, Torii Hunter singled home Napoli and Figgins, and Guerrero followed with his home run off Brian Bass.

"It took us a while to get going, leaving some guys in scoring position," Scioscia said. "But at the end of the day, with Vlad going deep, that was definitely nice."

The win enabled the Angels to remain in a first-place tie in the AL West with the Texas Rangers, who also won.

The victory also gave the Angels, who entered the game with a league-leading .278 team batting average, a 2-1 advantage in the four-game series with Baltimore that concludes today.

The Angels' go-ahead run came in the seventh inning when Juan Rivera hit a fly ball to shallow right field that should have been the third out of the inning. But miscommunication between Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts and right fielder Nick Markakis allowed the ball to drop between them, scoring Abreu to give the Angels the 5-4 lead.

Orioles rookie starter Jason Berken, 25, had never faced the Angels, either, and the right-hander held the Angels to one run through the first four innings.

But the Angels caught fire in the fifth when Napoli singled and Howie Kendrick, who was just called up from a 20-game stint in the minor leagues, also singled to spark a three-run rally.

Kendrick, who was sent to Salt Lake after he slumped this year, had a mixed night in his return. He went one for four with a single and scored a run, but also struck out twice.

--

Times staff writer Bill Brink contributed to this story.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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