Completing their first series sweep of the season behind another solid performance by starting pitcher Jason Johnson (4-2), the Orioles beat the Anaheim Angels, 6-4, before an announced crowd of 34,555 at Camden Yards last night. The score will be forgotten long before the atmosphere.
The makeup of Tuesday night's rainout allowed the Orioles their third three-game winning streak of the season. The win lifted the Orioles to 22-24, two games below .500 for the first time since May 2 and within four games of the division lead for the first time since April 25. It also represented a continuation of a two-game series played high and tight.
Plate umpire Bill Welke warned both starting pitchers against throwing retaliatory pitches and ejected two Angels in the first three innings. Three batters were hit for a second straight game, and Orioles first baseman David Segui engaged the visitors' dugout in a verbal back-and-forth after leg-whipping shortstop David Eckstein on a fifth-inning forceout.
"There was definitely some tension there," said left fielder Jay Gibbons, who staked the Orioles to a 3-1 lead with a second-inning home run only to be drilled in his next at-bat. "All the players were a little grumpy tonight. I don't think it came close to getting out of hand, but there definitely was a little tension there."
Johnson's 114 pitches over seven innings included hitting slumping right fielder Tim Salmon with an 0-2 pitch in the second inning. The mistake cost Johnson a run. Angels starter Ramon Ortiz (3-4) answered by hitting Gibbons and Segui, leaving each team with three hit batters in the micro-series. Welke warned both pitchers after Segui was hit in the fifth inning, leading Angels manager Mike Scioscia to hustle to the mound and Johnson to change his tactics.
"I feel like Ortiz did throw at our guys. I thought he had pretty good control tonight and all of a sudden he hit two of our guys," Johnson said.
Said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove: "I thought it was really curious that they complained loudly about a warning after hitting us twice. I don't remember them saying anything [Wednesday] when we accidentally hit them twice. I thought that was curious."
The Angels were already peeved by the Orioles' decision to reschedule Tuesday's rainout for last night instead of the afternoon.
They also find themselves in a team-wide slump reminiscent of what the Orioles experienced last month. Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and first baseman Wally Joyner were ejected for arguing Welke's strike zone.
Gibbons' home run broke a 1-for-19 slump and came in only his second start since May 9. His presence came at the expense of Delino DeShields, whose role has shrunk during the past week.
"I was actually a little nervous and jittery. It had been awhile, and I've been struggling. You want to produce. You want to help the team the best you can. You don't want to feel useless. This is what I love doing. It's fun to watch the games, but it's a lot better to play," said the rookie Gibbons, bothered by a sore wrist in recent weeks.
"Jay hit it the way you're supposed to a hit a hanging change-up. He hit it very, very well. He still has some ways to go to solidify himself at the plate as far as approach, but each at-bat he gets closer," Hargrove said.
The umpires' most significant move may have been issuing warnings to both pitchers. Johnson admitted to feeling a sense of payback, saying: "There's something I thought I was going to do. I was going to protect my players. They warned both teams and I hadn't even done anything yet. That kind of changed the whole outcome of the game."
Although Johnson said he felt inhibited from pitching inside afterward, the Orioles never let the Angels lead. He allowed a game-tying home run to third baseman Troy Glaus in the third but immediately regained the advantage on a four-single rally in the bottom of the inning. Cal Ripken's well-placed two-hop single scored Jeff Conine for a 4-3 lead.
Johnson continued this season's fun run at Camden Yards, winning for the fourth time in six home starts. He is 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA at home, a massive upgrade from last season when he was 0-8 with a 7.32 ERA in the shadow of the warehouse.
Second baseman Jerry Hairston pressed the lead to 5-3 with an RBI triple in the sixth inning that preceded Chris Richard's RBI grounder.
The game came closest to spilling over in the fifth after Ortiz hit Segui. Infuriated, the Orioles' first baseman took down Eckstein with a slide into second base that drew challenges from the Angels' dugout."[They were] yelling from the dugout. Exactly. It's always the guys not playing who're yelling," Segui said. "Guys get emotional during the game. I play that way. Junior [Ripken] was talking about playing Oakland one time when he got drilled. He came around on a double and crushed the catcher. It's how you respond to the situation - with a clean play."
Said Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy: "I don't think that was necessary. I don't know what his intentions were. It wasn't an automatic play. But it also wasn't necessary. [Segui] had a right to get mad with the way guys were getting thrown at, especially around the head."
Hairston played a part in a dicey ninth inning. With Mike Trombley pitching, he got an important first out with a leaping snare of Salmon's line drive. Consecutive walks brought the tying run to the plate. Eckstein's two-out single made the score 6-4 and put the tying run on base. Hargrove then summoned left-hander B. J. Ryan to get the final out for his second major-league save.
Breakdown(Through last night's game)
Orioles' record: 22-24 ......... Extra innings: 4-0
At home: 12-13 ................ Series wins: 9
On road: 10-11 ................ Series losses: 6
On grass: 17-20 ............... Series splits: 1
On turf: 5-4 ................... Vs. AL East: 12-14
Day games: 7-9 ................ Vs. AL Central: 8-10
Night games: 15-15 ............ Vs. AL West: 2-0
One-run games: 6-6 ............ Vs. NL: 0-0
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Opponent: Texas Rangers
Site: Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Rangers' Pat Mahomes (3-2, 3.29) vs. Orioles' Jose Mercedes (0-6, 6.28)