California rallied for five runs in the fifth inning on home runs by Brian Downing and Bobby Clark, and Geoff Zahn retired 19 of the last 23 batters he faced to lead the Angels to an 8-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles tonight at Memorial Stadium.
The Angels moved within one game of first-place Texas in the American League West; the Orioles, who had won six straight, fell to three games behind Toronto in the East Division.
The crowd of 40,952 put Baltimore over the 1 million mark in attendance, the earliest in a season the club has reached that figure.
Zahn (6-4), making his second start since coming off the disabled list July 11, allowed seven hits and came within one out of pitching his sixth complete game of the year. Zahn allowed four runs in the first three innings, but settled down to pitch a business-like game. Between the fifth and ninth innings, Zahn retired 11 straight and allowed only three balls to be hit out of the infield.
"I've been out a month and I didn't have good rhythm when I started," said Zahn, who struck out five and walked two. "I knew I just had to keep throwing to get it back, and by the sixth inning I felt pretty good."
After Zahn gave up a run in the ninth on Benny Ayala's single, Luis Sanchez relieved with two on and two out to retire pinch hitter John Lowenstein on a long fly to center and earn his fifth save.
While Zahn appeared to gain strength as the game progressed, Baltimore's pitching disintegrated in the fifth inning. Starter Dennis Martinez was removed after allowing a two-run homer to Downing with one out, and reliever Sammy Stewart gave up a three-run homer to Clark.
Paul Mirabella, making his first appearance for Baltimore since being called up from Rochester on July 9, pitched the final four innings, allowing no runs and giving up one hit.
Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli was surprisingly lenient on his pitching staff. "This was the first consistent pitching we've had since the All-Star break," he said.
"It would be different if (Dennis) didn't have his velocity. But he does. I don't know what the problem is. It is not an easy thing seeing a guy throwing 90 miles per hour and giving up hits the way he is."
Martinez threw 95 pitches, giving up eight hits and three walks. Martinez is 5-12 and is tied with St. Louis' Joaquin Andujar for the major league lead in losses.
California scored a run in the first as Rick Burleson led off with a single to left and took third on Fred Lynn's hit-and-run single. Darryl Sconiers lined what looked to be a double-play ball back through the box, but Martinez stabbed at the ball and deflected it to second baseman Rich Dauer, who barely threw out Sconiers. Burleson scored on the play.
Baltimore also found Zahn an easy mark in the first as Dauer hit a one-out single and took third on walks to Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray. After Gary Roenicke popped to short, Ken Singleton hit a looping single off the handle of the bat to shallow right, scoring Dauer and Ripken.
The Orioles got a run in the second on a two-out home run by Ayala and another in the third on Murray's leadoff homer to left. It was Murray's 17th homer of the season.
California came back with two unearned runs in the fourth. Downing singled and took second when Reggie Jackson walked. Bobby Grich followed with a slow grounder up the middle under Dauer's glove for an error, loading the bases.
Martinez retired the next two batters on infield flies, but Burleson drove a 3-1 single up the middle, scoring Downing and Jackson.
Martinez began to tire visibly in the fifth, giving up a leadoff single to Sconiers and throwing nine pitches to Lynn before getting him to pop out to catcher Rick Dempsey. But Downing, who is nine for 20 against Martinez in his career, hit a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall.
Altobelli replaced Martinez with Stewart, but things got worse. Stewart gave up singles to Jackson and Grich before Clark increased the Angels' lead to 8-4 with a home run to left.