The torrential downpour that transformed the Camden Yards infield into a muddy slop Monday night made any routine baseball play difficult.
But the timing was perfect for the Orioles, who scored two runs through monsoon-like rain in the bottom of the sixth, then held on following a two-hour, 14-minute rain delay for a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
With the victory, which ended just 10 minutes before midnight, the Orioles (36-28) snapped a three-game home losing streak to the Angels (27-37) and improved their record against the AL West to 10-5.
With heavy thunderstorms – and even tornado warnings – in the Baltimore area Monday night, both teams knew getting an official game in would be a challenge, but because this was the Angels' only visit to Camden Yards this season, they battled the forces of nature to dodge a suspended game.
Even though the storms intensified after the game became official after four and a half innings and the Orioles leading 2-1, the game went on. The Angels tied the game in the top of the sixth inning on Josh Hamilton's solo homer off right-hander Freddy Garcia, Hamilton's 12th career home run against the Orioles in 43 games.
But after the first four runs of the game were scored by home runs, any other simple baseball act became a challenge. The infield was shiny with puddles throughout, baserunners were slowed in mud and ground balls died in the slop.
But the Orioles took advantage of those conditions in the sixth inning, after the grounds crew placed drying compound on the infield and the pitcher's mound in the middle of the inning and continued play.
"We had to get them out and they had to get us out," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It got worse as it went on. The field can just take so much."
With the game tied at 2 following Hamilton's homer, Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth dragged a bunt that died in the infield grass for an infield hit. McLouth then stole second base to put himself in scoring position.
Manny Machado then looped a tailing slider from Angels right-hander Jered Weaver into right field for a single. McLouth, slowed in the infield slop, trekked to third but headed home after Machado's hit scooted past Hamilton on the slick grass in right field.
"McLouth put down a perfect bunt, got a good jump and stole the base," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Those guys got some good situational hitting going to get a couple runs in the sixth. But the grass part was really no different than we started."
McLouth said he wanted to get in scoring position quickly as the conditions worsened because he believed it was just a matter of time before a delay.
"They had just put down some of that stuff in the baseline that kind of dries it up and I feel like I had good enough footing," McLouth said. "At that point it was still 2-2 at that point. "I knew that rain was coming. It was already coming hard at that point. I knew the rain was coming so I wanted to make sure I got down there as soon as I could and it ended up working. … It's tough to catch a ball and receive a ball in those conditions too so I just took that chance and it ended up working out."
Nick Markakis, who made a sensational diving catch robbing Erick Aybar of extra bases in the fifth, then muscled a bloop single to left field through the rain, moving Machado to third. And Adam Jones' sacrifice fly to right easily scored Machado through the heavy rain.
On the next play, it became obvious that play couldn't resume. Chris Davis hit a grounder to the left side that literally died in a dirt puddle in the infield. And as Alberto Callaspo's throw barely beat a sliding Markakis to second base, Markakis slid "slip-n-slide" style through the second base bag.
"We didn't stop it until the field became unplayable," home plate umpire and crew chief Joe West said. "As soon as we stopped it, the bottom fell out. We had to stop then anyway. But we stopped it because the field was becoming unplayable. And we made every effort to fix it along the way. We fixed the batter's box, put dry stuff on the mound, but when players start sliding, you can't take a chance with them getting injured."
McLouth said he didn't think play would resume once the game was delayed.
"When they put that tarp on the field it was disgusting," McLouth said. "It was straight mud. When Callaspo made that play on Chris Davis, it was a routine play, but it was so wet that I can't even believe he made that play. It was bad."
But the umpiring crew waited out the storm but had play not resumed, the Orioles would have been awarded a 4-2 win.
The game became official after four and a half innings with the Orioles leading 2-1. But because the sixth inning was started, and the Angels scored a run to tie on Josh Hamilton's homer, that changed things.
Had the Orioles failed to score in the sixth – or if the Orioles failed to get their fair at bat in the sixth without scoring -- the game could have been suspended as a tie and resumed Tuesday.
Pitching through the elements, Orioles right-hander Freddy Garcia continued his dominance of the Angels, winning his seventh straight decision against Los Angeles. Despite allowing two homers — and six in his last two starts — the 36-year-old Garcia held the Angels to two runs on five hits over six innings and improved his record against Los Angeles to 17-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 30 career starts, with his team winning 24 of those starts.
Once the storms receded, West surveyed the field and decided to try to resume play.
"We've done this before," West said. "What did the (grounds crew) say? He said, 'I need an hour.' And I said, 'You have 40 minutes.'"
After play resumed — following a impressive grounds crew mop-up job that included removing about three inches of standing water from the right-field corner -- right-hander Tommy Hunter took over for Garcia and despite allowing a run and walking two, he stranded the bases loaded, getting a strikeout of Albert Pujols and getting Mark Trumbo to ground out to second. Ryan Flaherty made a nice play to snag Trumbo's ball up the middle and throw across his body to throw out Trumbo and end the inning.
Darren O'Day tossed a scoreless eighth and Jim Johnson retired the Angels in order in the ninth for his 22nd save of the season.
Before the delay, Adam Jones hit his second homer in as many days, a two-run shot that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead with one out in the fourth inning. Jones turned on a 78-mph changeup from Weaver on a 1-0 count. Jones' homer came after Markakis drew a one-out walk on seven pitches.
The Angels went up early on Mike Trout's opposite-field homer onto the flag court in right field in the third inning. Trout's 11th homer of the season came on an 87-mph slider.
Steady showers were off and on throughout the game until it became a downpour in the fifth inning, when Hamilton led off the inning with a solo shot through the storm that landed in the right-field flag court.