Winning streak hits 6

The Baltimore Sun

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- To a man, the Orioles all but brushed aside their three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, suggesting that the real test started last night with a four-game series against the hot Los Angeles Angels. For one night against one of baseball's best, the Orioles measured up.

Starter Brian Burres and the bullpen dodged trouble throughout. Brian Roberts frequently set the table with three hits and Nick Markakis cleared it with three RBIs. That carried the visitors to their sixth straight win, a 6-2 victory before an announced crowd of 42,266 at Angel Stadium.

It was the latest gritty performance for a team whose uninspired and spotty play threatened to cost manager Sam Perlozzo his job a little more than a week ago. Now, the Orioles (27-27) are back at their stated goal of a .500 record and in second place in the American League East.

They are riding their first six-game winning streak since they won eight in a row from April 22 to May 1, 2005. They finished May with a 15-13 record, quite a feat considering they remain without three of their projected starters and their offense hadn't broken out until the past week.

The Orioles took a three-run lead against Angels starter Kelvim Escobar in a three-run fifth inning, highlighted by an RBI single from Roberts and a two-run double from Markakis.

Their bullpen then worked hard to hold the lead after Burres' evening was over after five gritty but eventful innings. It started with demoted setup man Danys Baez, who pitched the sixth inning. He allowed two base runners but got out of the inning unscathed, the first time in five outings that he hadn't given up a run.

Jamie Walker worked the seventh and allowed a run on Vladimir Guerrero's single, but he was bailed out of further damage when catcher Ramon Hernandez gunned down Reggie Willits trying to steal third.

Walker exited after allowing a leadoff double to Casey Kotchman in the eighth. Chad Bradford entered and got three straight outs to hand the ball over to closer Chris Ray with a three-run lead.

Ray struggled but came through for his 13th save.

"These next four days should be a pretty good test to see if we are as good as the way we're playing right now," Orioles outfielder Jay Payton said.

Said Perlozzo: "They are playing very well and they have really good pitching. We feel like we have our work cut out for us, but we feel like we're also playing good ball."

Escobar had won five of his past six starts, posting a 2.20 ERA in the process. In eight of nine starts, the veteran right-hander had allowed three earned runs or fewer. He's also traditionally been stingy against the Orioles, going 12-4 with a 3.76 ERA against them in his career.

The Orioles, whose offense awakened over the five previous games, got to him early. Roberts led off the game with a single. He was stealing second on a 3-2 pitch to Markakis, but Escobar threw ball four, which went all the way back to the backstop, allowing Roberts to take third base.

Miguel Tejada followed with a liner to the right side that hit off the glove of a lunging Howie Kendrick. It scored Roberts, but Markakis, who had to hold up to see if the ball was going to be caught, was forced out at second base. Aubrey Huff then hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Angels came right back to tie the game in the bottom of the first. Orlando Cabrera hit a sinking liner into left field and then hustled into second as Payton's throw pulled Roberts off the bag. Guerrero then slammed Burres' pitch down the left-field line to tie the game at 1.

But Burres kept Guerrero at second, striking out former Oriole Gary Matthews Jr. and getting Robb Quinlan on a groundout to Tejada. Burres again pitched out of trouble in the third after allowing a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Chone Figgins, who got into scoring position by stealing second with one out. But Melvin Mora made a diving stop of a hard grounder by Cabrera and threw him out for the second out, and Burres retired the dangerous Guerrero on a groundout.

With the score still tied at 1 in the fifth, the Orioles caught a break when Angels left fielder Willits couldn't handle Hernandez's deep drive to the warning track in left-center field. It appeared Willits was distracted by Matthews Jr., who cut in front of him trying to make the catch.

It was ruled a double and it gave the Orioles men on second and third with no outs. Escobar struck out Corey Patterson, but Roberts laced a single to left field, scoring Kevin Millar from third. Markakis followed with a double in the left-center-field gap, his second of the night, to plate two Orioles and give them a 4-1 lead.

Burres got out of a major jam in the bottom of the fifth. The Angels had runners on first and third and one out after Burres walked Willits. On the pitch earlier, the Orioles thought the left-hander struck out Willits on a 2-2 curveball, but plate umpire Dana DeMuth didn't give them a call. Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone jumped on the top step of the dugout to yell at DeMuth.

They then watched Burres strike out Cabrera and get Guerrero on a pop-up that Patterson made a sliding catch on in shallow center field.

Burres' evening was then over. He gave up one run on three hits, three walks and a hit batsman in five innings.

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