Orioles 7, Angels 4
The struggling Baltimore Orioles entered tonight's contest against the Anaheim Angels seeking a victory that would decide the three-game series, and possibly, signal the end of their slump. They got what they wanted, coming from behind to win, 7-4, on Brian Roberts's ninth-inning grand slam before an Edison International Field crowd of 28,958.
It was Roberts's first major league grand slam, and he hit it against Anaheim's ace closer, Troy Percival (0-2), who suffered his first blown save of the season. Roberts joined the Orioles on Wednesday, replacing the injured Jerry Hairston.
"I wanted to make sure I made [Percival] get a pitch down that I could hit," said Roberts, doing his best to repress a smile. "I don't hit enough home runs to know if it was gone. I knew he wasn't going to catch it, and that was all that mattered."
The victory marked the first time Baltimore (21-25) won back-to-back games since taking a doubleheader from Kansas City on May 9.
Willis Roberts (3-1) got the win in relief, and Jorge Julio collected his 12th save. Jason Johnson (4-2), starting for Baltimore, went 6 1/3 innings, surrendering six hits and four runs in a no-decision. Of his 107 pitches, only 65 were for strikes.
Ramon Ortiz (4-4) started for Anaheim (22-23), and had a solid night on the mound, giving up six hits and two runs -- one earned -- in 61/3 innings.
Baltimore's hitters had been prolific in the past three games, scoring 21 runs on 39 hits. This time out, Baltimore had fewer scoring opportunities, and until the final frame, failed to take advantage of their chances.
With one out in the first, Melvin Mora doubled off the wall in center field. But he never advanced past second, watching as David Segui struck out, and Jeff Conine grounded out to short.
In the fifth, it was more of the same. With two outs, Roberts doubled into the gap in left center, but Mora would strand him, striking out.
Tony Batista and Gary Matthews each singled in the seventh, and Deivi Cruz laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance them to second and third. But Geronimo Gil popped up to second, and Roberts flied out to left.
But in the ninth, Percival was shaky, and the Orioles took advantage. Matthews walked, and then, on a hit and run, advanced to third on Cruz's single. After Percival hit Gil with a pitch, Roberts came to the plate, and on a 3-2 pitch, crushed a fastball over the right field wall.
"Brian's got a lot of talent," said Baltimore Manager Mike Hargrove.
"He's got a lot of things he can do on the baseball field to help you win."
Johnson was dominant for Baltimore in the early going, retiring the first eight batters and striking out the side in the second. But with one out in the third, Bengie Molina lined the ball off Johnson's foot. As Molina raced for first, so did Johnson, but Conine's flip-throw was high, and Molina was safe.
Johnson seemed momentarily rattled, and on his first pitches to the next two batters, he gave up singles, loading the bases. Molina scored on a fielder's choice, and Anaheim led, 1-0. Still, Johnson managed to keep the damage to a minimum, striking out Tim Salmon with men on second and third to end the inning.
In the fourth, it was Baltimore's turn to benefit from a fielding mishap. With one out, Conine grounded the ball to third. Scott Spiezio's throw to first was high, and although Salmon made the catch, the ball fell from his glove, and Spiezio was charged with an error.
Jay Gibbons, up next, doubled down the right field line, moving Conine to third. Tony Batista singled into right field, scoring both baserunners and putting the Orioles up 2-1, but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
A mistake by Johnson in the fifth would let Anaheim back into the game. Ahead 0-2 in the count with no outs, Johnson hit Spiezio with a pitch, putting him on first. Molina followed and launched the ball off the center field wall, scoring Spiezio and tying the game.
After Jeff DaVanon popped up to the catcher, Eckstein doubled to left center, bringing Molina home and giving Anaheim a 3-2 lead. Again, however, Johnson got himself out of trouble, striking out Salmon for the second time.
Ortiz's replacement, Brendan Donnelly, allowed Baltimore to draw to 4-3 in the eighth. In his major league debut, the Orioles' Carlos Mendez took a turn at designated hitter, and knocked a 1-2 pitch just feet short of a home run. He settled for a double, then scored with two outs on Gibbons's single.
The Angels threatened to score again in the eighth, but handy fielding by Roberts kept it close. With men on first and second, Molina hit a low liner right at Roberts, who one-handed the ball off the bounce, and helped turned a double play.