BALTIMORE - For six innings Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were locked in a pitchers' duel, as both teams struggled to put up runs and had many stellar defensive plays.
It looked like the game would continue to be that way entering the eighth. That is, until the Orioles were able to piece together an unorthodox two-out rally plating a pair of runs, leading Baltimore to a 3-2 win before 22,834 at Camden Yards.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (4-2) outdueled Jason Vargas (5-4), pitching eight superb innings, while keeping the Angels from answering Baltimore's pair of late runs.
With two outs in the seventh, the Orioles had three consecutive infield singles by Danny Valencia, Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty - the 7-8-9 hitters. Nick Markakis then knocked in two runs with a single to center, breaking the 1-1 tie.
"When the fans come to a game, that's what they expect. Good defense, hitting and good pitching," Markakis said. "You saw that tonight and it was a good ballgame, and we ended up coming out on top."
Markakis was the first, and only, batter that Angels reliever Scott Downs faced. Baltimore's leadoff hitter went 2 for 4, both hits being singles.
"I've faced Downs enough to know what he's going to do out there," Markakis said. "He left one up over the plate, I put a good swing on it, and we scored two runs."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it was great to have Markakis up with the bases loaded and a tie game.
"You've seen the numbers," Showalter said. "There's not a good matchup there for any opposing team when Nick's in that position."
The Orioles (37-28) were shut down by Vargas for five innings, much like the first time they faced him on May 3. The left-hander, who pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout against Baltimore the first time, gave up just two hits Tuesday in those first five innings.
Gonzalez opposed Vargas on both May 3 and Tuesday. This time, however, Gonzalez was much stronger, as opposed to the last time when he surrendered four runs.
The Baltimore right-hander, who has not lost since returning from the DL May 21, threw eight innings, giving up just one run on four hits. His lone blemish was a Mike Trout solo homer to straightaway center leading off the fourth. It was Trout's second home run in as many days for Los Angeles (27-38).
"I made good pitches when I needed to and we played a good game all-around," Gonzalez said. "I just try to give my team a chance to win a ballgame, and that's what we did."
Showalter said he considered leaving Gonzalez in for the ninth, but felt confident closer Jim Johnson would finish it off.
"I had good options. Either one of them might have been the right one," Showalter said.
Vargas gave up three runs on seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Both starters got tremendous support from their defense.
For the second year in a row, J.J. Hardy was robbed of a solo homer in the first inning by an Angels center fielder. On June 27, 2012, Mike Trout made a sensational leaping catch in right-center at Camden Yards.
Peter Bourjos topped that Tuesday, pulling back a Hardy homer in straightaway center to end the first.
For Baltimore, Manny Machado made several outstanding defensive plays. Markakis made a pair of great catches in right field, including one in the sixth in foul territory where he slammed into the wall but was able to hang on to the ball.
Johnson gave up an RBI single to Albert Pujols with two outs in the ninth, but struck out Mark Trumbo looking to seal the win and earn his 23rd save of the season, his eighth straight.
With the win, Baltimore moved to a season-high nine games over .500. It was also the Orioles' third straight win, clinching their major-league-leading 14th series win, as they will look to sweep the Angels today.
"Here we are 2-0, where we want to sit," Markakis said, "and looking for a third game tomorrow."