Monday, July 6, 2009

Angels 9, Orioles 6

Vladimir Guerrero at bat, August 28, 2005. 23:...

It used to take the Angels three or four hits to score a run, their aversion to walks and working counts forcing them to generate most of their offense from the batter's box.

Sunday, these new princes of patience cobbled together three runs on only one hit in a seventh-inning rally that lifted the Angels to a 9-6 come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

With the score tied, 6-6, in the seventh, Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli drew bases-loaded walks off reliever Chris Ray, and Kendry Morales added a sacrifice fly, as the Angels erased a 4-0 deficit for the second straight game.

It marked the first time in almost 30 years the Angels have come back from four-run deficits to win consecutive games, the last coming July 14-15, 1979, against the New York Yankees.

"Yeah, that was pretty odd," third baseman Chone Figgins said of the three-run seventh. "We're trying to be more patient. . . . I think it confuses the pitcher. He's thinking, 'They're usually a hacking team, and they're not swinging.' I think it makes them try to be more perfect, and they end up being more wild."

The Angels ranked 12th among 14 American League teams in walks last season and 11th with a .330 on-base percentage.

They still won't be confused with Oakland's "Moneyball" teams from earlier this decade, but they now rank ninth in the league with 266 walks and fifth in the league with a .345 on-base percentage.

"There are six guys with legitimate home run power and some guys who are patient," said Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who threw a scoreless ninth for his league-leading 24th save.

"It's got to be tough for other pitchers."

Bobby Abreu, who leads the team with 46 walks, opened the seventh with a walk off reliever Matt Albers, and Torii Hunter slammed a double to center field to put runners on second and third.

Baltimore Orioles Manager Dave Trembley chose to intentionally walk Vladimir Guerrero, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth, his second in two games, to load the bases.

Trembley summoned the right-handed Ray, who walked Rivera and Napoli to force in runs that gave the Angels an 8-6 lead. Morales' sacrifice fly to left made it 9-6.

"They cracked the door open for us," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "In the past, we've had trouble making pitchers work for outs. We're doing a much better job of that."

Angels starter Joe Saunders appreciated the effort. He suffered his second straight subpar start, allowing six runs -- five earned -- and seven hits, including two homers, in 5 1/3 innings but escaped with a no-decision.

"The hitters picked me up," Saunders said. "This one's on them. They did their job today, not me."

Saunders was glad to get out of Texas, where he was rocked for eight runs and six hits, including four home runs, in last Tuesday's 9-5 loss to the Rangers, which dropped him to 0-5 with an 11.68 career earned-run average at the Ballpark in Arlington.

But the left-hander didn't fare much better on the left coast, falling behind in counts and laboring throughout an afternoon in which he threw 111 pitches, only 60 for strikes.

He gave up a game-opening home run to Brian Roberts, a two-run double to Roberts in the third and a solo home run to Matt Wieters in the sixth.

But the Angels scored three in the third (Abreu two-run double, Hunter RBI double), two in the fifth on Guerrero's homer and tied the score on Erick Aybar's RBI double in the sixth.

"I'm proud of the boys," Saunders said. "They really picked me up."

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