ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The entire weekend was a worst-case scenario, and still manager Johnny Oates found a reason to believe.
He watched the Orioles battle back all afternoon and still lose yesterday, but he has not lost his vision of a team ready to turn itself around.
The California Angels scored seven runs in the second inning and held on to complete a three-game sweep with a 7-5 victory, but Oates chose to focus on the five runs his club scored in a late charge that fell short.
Never mind that the club opened the 10-game road trip with three victories in four games at Yankee Stadium but now has dropped to 3-4 with three games to play in Oakland. Never mind that the team needed to make a dent in a big early-season divisional deficit. Never mind that the Orioles had not been swept in a series of any length by the Angels since Aug. 18-20, 1978.
"It's already a positive road trip as far as I'm concerned," said Oates, whose team fell 11 games behind first-place Detroit before the Tigers played last night. "We've had more enthusiasm, more hits, more chances to score runs and more base runners than I've seen in a long time. Unfortunately, half of them were the other team's."
Indeed, the Orioles had more hits and more base runners than the Angels yesterday, but most of the Angels' offensive attack was concentrated in the second-inning assault on left-hander Jamie Moyer, who turned in one of the shortest performances (1 2/3 innings) by an Orioles starter this year.
There were a lot of positive contributions from the Orioles' offense, but they only added up to a loss that dropped the club nine games below .500 (20-29) for the first time this season.
Shortstop Cal Ripken, who had pulled out of a 1-for-19 tailspin with two hits on Saturday night, had three hits yesterday, including his fifth home run of the season. His average had dropped below .200 (.199) on Friday night for the first time since April 19 of last year, but he bunched together five straight hits over the past two games to raise it back to .216.
The home run was his third since he changed his batting stance nine days ago. He has five hits in eight at-bats since spending part of Saturday afternoon working on his hitting mechanics with assistant general manager Frank Robinson.
"I'm just trying to get comfortable and work on shoring up my mechanics," Ripken said. "I enjoy talking to Frank about hitting. It was nice to sit down and have a session with him."
Oates has been looking for Ripken to bust out of his lengthy offensive slump for some time, particularly since the stance change May 22. He isn't jumping to any conclusions, but he enjoyed what he saw the past two days.
"Just as I said when he had a bad game, I don't base my judgment on one ballgame, but on the whole road trip," Oates said. "He's had a couple of off ballgames, but he hit the ball hard in New York and he had two hits last night and had a good day today. I know he's not going to be a .195 hitter."
Center fielder Mike Devereaux enjoyed his first multiple-hit game since returning from the disabled list. He singled twice and drove in a run in the eighth inning, when the Orioles were putting some late-inning pressure on the beleaguered Angels bullpen.
Moyer pitched in some tough luck through his first two starts for the Orioles, giving up two runs or fewer both times and ending up with a pair of losses. He was called up after a 6-0 run at Triple-A Rochester, so yesterday was his first really bad performance of the year.
If he had gotten five runs in either of his other games, he would be 2-1 right now. Instead, the loss dropped him to 0-3 and raised his ERA from 1.93 to 5.74.
"What are you going to do?" he said. "I picked the wrong time to have a bad day."
They don't get much worse. In the second inning, he have up seven runs on six hits and a hit batsman before Oates mercifully brought on long reliever Alan Mills to get the final out after the Angels had brought 10 men to the plate.
Former Orioles infielder Rene Gonzales started the rally with a one-out double to left and scored on a single by slumping third baseman Gary Gaetti. Moyer hit Damion Easley with a pitch and struck out Gary DiSarcina before catcher Ron Tingley loaded the bases with an infield hit.
In an afternoon of big swings, it was that ground-ball hit that was pivotal. If Tingley had pushed it a few feet to the right or left, it
might have been the final out of the inning. One run across. No problem. Instead, it kept the inning alive long enough for the Angels to break the game open.
Stan Javier stroked a single to left to score two runs, and Chad Curtis slapped a base hit to right to add one. Moyer, who couldn't get a win when he gave up one run his last time out, had to wonder how he was going get one with four runs across in the second, but he didn't have to worry about that long. The next hitter, Tim Salmon, crushed a three-run homer to knock him out of the game.
"It just seemed like things snowballed," Moyer said. "There were two outs and I just kept thinking that if you make a good pitch, you're out of it. I was one pitch away from getting out of it and couldn't make a pitch when I wanted to."
Salmon was one of the prime movers in the three-game sweep. He hit two home runs and reached base nine times in 17 plate appearances. Curtis also was a constant irritant to the Orioles' pitching staff, reaching base eight times in 13 plate appearances, five times on walks.
The Orioles continue to struggle at the plate, though they battled back to make yesterday's game respectable. They scored 12 runs in the three-game series. That four-runs-per-game average is almost what they are averaging over the season as the league's lowest-scoring team.
* Orioles-Angels scoring Angels second: Davis grounded out to third baseman Gomez. Gonzales doubled down the left field line. Gaetti singled to left, Gonzales scored, on throw home, Gaetti to second. Easley hit by pitch. DiSarcina struck out. Tingley singled to shortstop, Gaetti to third, Easley to second. Javier singled to left, Gaetti and Easley scored, Tingley to third. Curtis singled to right center, Tingley scored, Javier to third. Salmon homered to left on 1-0 count, Javier, Curtis and Salmon scored. Mills relieved Moyer. Davis grounded out to shortstop Ripken. 7 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Angels 7, Orioles 0.
Orioles third: Devereaux flied out to left fielder Javier. Ripken homered down the left field line on 0-0 count. Baines grounded out to second baseman Easley. Gomez struck out to catcher Tingley. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Angels 7, Orioles 1.
Orioles fifth: Anderson walked. Devereaux singled to right, Anderson to third. Ripken singled to left, Anderson scored, Devereaux to second. Baines grounded into fielder's choice, second baseman Easley to shortstop DiSarcina, Devereaux to third, Ripken forced at second. Gomez walked, Baines to second. Hoiles hit sacrifice fly to right fielder Salmon, Devereaux scored, Baines to third. Segui grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop DiSarcina to second baseman Easley, Gomez forced at second. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Angels 7, Orioles 3.
Orioles eighth: Hoiles struck out. Segui singled to left. Voigt singled to left, Segui to second. Reynolds grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop DiSarcina to second baseman Easley, Segui to third, Voigt forced at second. On Patterson's wild pitch, Segui scored, Reynolds to second. Anderson walked. Nelson relieved Patterson. Devereaux singled to left, Reynolds scored, Anderson second. Ripken grounded out to third baseman Gonzales. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Angels 7, Orioles 5.