ANAHEIM, Calif. - Sam Perlozzo leaned on a bat in the Orioles' dugout yesterday, looking like a man ready to hit ground balls to his infielders. It was difficult to tell that he was preparing to manage a major league club.
Those clues came later when he removed his starting pitcher after five innings, brought in his closer to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, steered a team that had lost its way.
Make no mistake, this was Perlozzo's club. And the first day of his reign, however long it lasts, was a rousing success.
Named interim manager after Lee Mazzilli was fired, Perlozzo guided the Orioles to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels before another sellout crowd at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
The Orioles (52-56) had lost eight in a row and 16 of 18, but they salvaged the final game of the series. They'll try to do the same with their season.
"I'm tickled, I really am," Perlozzo said, "but the team needed a win more than I needed a win. Trust me."
Perlozzo is 1-0 as a major league manager, not counting the 12 games he covered for Mike Hargrove in 2003. Hargrove was attending to his ailing mother, and the Orioles went 4-8 in his absence.
The circumstances changed yesterday. The Orioles fired Mazzilli after 1 1/2 seasons, and Perlozzo was given the keys. For one day, at least, the ride was smooth.
"It's bittersweet for me," Perlozzo said. "I never wanted to have a job at the expense of someone else, but at the same time, I'm happy that I have an opportunity, and I'll try to make the best of it."
Perlozzo spoke to Mazzilli over the phone yesterday morning. He knew about the change late Wednesday night, word coming from executive vice president Jim Beattie, who wanted to give the former bench coach time to prepare.
"Maz took it pretty well, as well as could be," Perlozzo said. "He's doing OK. He's a quality guy. He'll get through this. He's a great baseball man, and he'll land on his feet.
"I told him, 'Keep me in mind if I'm looking for a job.'"
Yesterday's task became easier when Eric Byrnes hit a shallow fly to left in the third inning that shortstop Orlando Cabrera lost in the sun, the ball hitting his left hip and allowing two runs to score. Byrnes was credited with a triple.
It became easier when Sammy Sosa hit a two-run shot off Angels starter Ervin Santana in the fourth, the 588th homer of his career. And it became an official win after B.J. Ryan struck out pinch hitter Jose Molina with the bases loaded to end the eighth, and stranded a runner in the ninth for his 23rd save.
"I think the club is pretty resilient," Perlozzo said. "It's like with kids. You can do a lot of things, and they bounce back. I'm going to do my best to make sure that they're OK."
Working on short rest, Rodrigo Lopez (10-6) held the Angels to one run and two hits over five innings. In his previous start, he allowed eight runs in 1 1/3 innings and Mazzilli again had to overwork his bullpen.
"I didn't have my best stuff today, but I battled," Lopez said. "No matter what moves the front office does, you still have to do your job."
Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, though Jorge Julio walked the only batter he faced in the eighth to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Ryan blew away Molina with a high fastball.
"I was comfortable with all the moves we made," Perlozzo said.
After the last out, Perlozzo hugged his coaches and waited in foul territory to shake hands with his players. He was given the ball from the last out.
"The guys are battling," Perlozzo said. "They needed a win and they got it. I think you'll see a little more spark and fire out of them."
Perlozzo wasn't ready to put his stamp on the club, but he noted how he'd like to "freshen up" some tired players. He also learned how to handle a pitching staff from former manager Davey Johnson, a perceived weakness of Mazzilli's within the clubhouse.
"I explained to the ballclub that we need to play better baseball, period," Perlozzo said. "If we do that, good things will happen. And when good things happen, that'll lead to more wins."
The Orioles didn't get enough of them to save Mazzilli's job.
"I don't think anybody really saw it coming," Brian Roberts said, "but the way that we've played, I don't know that it blows anybody's doors off."
Pitching coach Ray Miller indicated in June that he'd be less inclined to return next season if Mazzilli was fired. He wouldn't speculate on his future yesterday while dressing for the team charter to Texas.
"That's not my choice anyway," he said. "Right now, I'll do the best I can for Sam."
That goes for everyone on the team.
"We've been losing some games," Sosa said, "but nobody here is quitting."