Orioles 6, Angels 1
-- By the time Larry Bigbie arrived back at the Baltimore Orioles' dugout in the fourth inning Thursday afternoon, having just made a daring dash home from second base on an infield single, literally every person in the dugout at the time swarmed him near the top step, engulfing Bigbie in a joyous sea of road-jersey gray.
Winning, which the Orioles have been doing frequently these days, has transformed the team into a confident, enthusiastic and unified bunch, as opposed to the moribund, apathetic outfit they appeared to be a month ago.
Bigbie's dash home on David Newhan's slow grounder behind second base was not the most exciting moment in the Orioles' 6-1 win over the Anaheim Angels -- the Orioles' ninth win in their last 10 games and their second in three games here this week against the formerly wild card-leading Angels -- but it might have been the most significant.
At the time, the Orioles led by two runs, and they had no idea their starting pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez (10-7), would complete seven brilliant innings, or that Angels ace Bartolo Colon would never find his lost command, or that Melvin Mora's two-run single in the sixth inning would complete a six-run pounding of Colon (11-9), or that they would coast through the late innings and carry their newly gained momentum all the way to Toronto on a late-night charter flight after the game.
"Coming in here and taking two out of three against this team," Bigbie said, "is definitely a big plus for us."
As Bigbie and Brian Roberts took their leads off second and first base, respectively -- preparing to run on the 3-2 pitch with two outs -- Newhan awaited the pitch from Colon, who had won six straight starts but who was struggling at this instant.
With the runners moving, Newhan hit a high hopper over the mound. Angels shortstop David Eckstein scooped it up on the run, but his throw to first base was too late to get Newhan, who was credited with an infield single. Give Roberts credit, too: By hustling to second, he made sure Eckstein had no chance for a forceout.
Running on the pitch, Bigbie was in full stride -- with his back to the play -- as he motored toward third and then kept going, never even glancing back to see which Angels infielder made the play.
"As soon as [Newhan] hit it," Bigbie said, "I knew I was going to try to score. If [Eckstein] had held the ball, I would have been dead. But I knew if he threw to first I had a good chance. Sometimes when it's a bang-bang play, the first baseman holds the ball to see if [the runner] is safe or out."
That's exactly what Angels first baseman Darin Erstad did, and his hesitation cost him, as Bigbie had rounded third and headed home before Erstad realized what was happening. Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn was yelling for Bigbie to score, but Bigbie said he never even heard it.
"I had a front-row seat," Trebelhorn said, "and it was pretty exciting."
Erstad made a hurried throw home, but Bigbie scored easily, sliding across the plate and jogging to the dugout, whereupon he was mobbed by his teammates. At first base, Newhan was most grateful, as Bigbie's hustle earned him an RBI.
"I was surprised to see him sliding across the plate," Newhan said. "It was just a heads-up play by [Bigbie]. I was running my butt off down the line, trying to beat the throw, and then I turn around and was like, 'I got a ribbie.' "
As the Orioles dressed after the game, the clubhouse was full of music. Over the last seven games, they had taken six against two of the best teams in the American League West, Texas and Anaheim. Perhaps more impressively, they seemed not the least bit surprised.
"That [confidence] comes with winning," said Manager Lee Mazzilli, whose team is 18-10 since the all-star break, including an eight-game winning streak that ended Wednesday night. "You can see it in the way they go about it."
Orioles Notes: Mazzilli said there are no plans to place right-hander Jason Grimsley on the disabled list, despite the fact he has been forced off the mound in each of his last two appearances because of a strained hip flexor. . . .
Jay Gibbons made his first start for the team in nearly six weeks, serving as designated hitter and going 1 for 4 with an RBI double in the first inning and a walk in the third. Gibbons had been activated from the disabled list Tuesday. . . .
When Orioles reliever Todd Williams hit Garret Anderson with a breaking ball in the eighth inning, he probably had no idea how difficult a feat he had just accomplished: It marked the first time since Aug. 25, 1998 that Anderson had been hit with a pitch, ending a span of 3,807 consecutive plate appearances in which he had not been hit. . . .
Mora homered off Colon in the first inning, his 21st of the season. . . . Orioles starting pitchers compiled a 2.41 ERA in the three games here, giving up only five runs over 182/3 innings. . . . Lopez's win was his fourth in his last five starts, but it was only the second time in 14 starts that he has completed seven innings.