BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles have proven adept at winning meaningful games in September, much to the dismay of the playoff contenders they’ve been beating.
Zach Britton pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, and the Orioles dealt another blow to the Los Angeles Angels with a 6-2 victory Saturday night. Baltimore has won four straight — two over the wild-card hopeful Tampa Bay Rays and two more over the Angels, who fell 4 1/2 games behind first-place Texas in the AL West.
The Orioles long ago assured themselves of a 14th consecutive losing season and will finish last in the AL East. With nothing else to play for, they’ve embraced the spoiler’s role.
“I think it more so just shows the type of people we are as a team,” Britton said. “We could easily have just kind of thrown in the towel and we’re not doing that. We know that these teams have something to play for and we are playing them hard.”
J.J. Hardy hit his career-high 27th home run and Mark Reynolds hit No. 34 off Ervin Santana (11-12) in a five-run first inning, and the Orioles cruised behind Britton, who finished with a career-best seven strikeouts. Asked if Baltimore relishes the attention of winning these games, Hardy said, “I don’t know if people are starting to notice. It’s just nice to do what we feel like we’re capable of doing. Hopefully we can build on it these next (12) games and take it into next year.”
Santana settled down after the first inning, but the damage was done. The right-hander gave up five runs and five hits over seven innings and lost his third consecutive start. He was 5-0 in his previous five road starts.
“I was all over the place,” Santana said. “Then, after that, (I) refocused and throw strikes.”
Santana was dangerously wild. He walked three and hit two batters with pitches, including Reynolds, who was plunked in the helmet with a fastball in the third inning. Reynolds insisted upon remaining in the game, but was removed in the top of the fifth. Reynolds was taken to the hospital for a precautionary CT scan, manager Buck Showalter said.
“Everything was fine, but we just wanted to be on the safe side,” Showalter said. “You’re just not going to take any chances
Baltimore sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored twice before Santana got an out. After Matt Angle drew a leadoff walk, Hardy drove a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall. One out later, Vladimir Guerrero singled and Matt Wieters walked before Reynolds homered with two outs on an 0-2 pitch.
The Angels, meanwhile, didn’t get their first hit until Mike Trout singled with one out in the fifth. Erick Aybar followed with a single and Bobby Wilson hit a sacrifice fly.
Mark Trumbo led off the seventh with a single and advanced to third with two outs before Aybar grounded out. Baltimore made it 6-1 in the eighth against Garrett Richards. Wieters walked on four pitches and scored when Trout bobbled Chris
Davis’ double to right.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 14 minutes after home plate umpire Brian O’Nora was struck in the right ankle by a ricocheting warmup pitch from Britton. The fallen umpire was helped off by Orioles athletic trainers. X-rays were inconclusive. Second base umpire Alfonzo Marquez moved behind the plate and the game was played with three umps.
An MRI performed Saturday on Orioles OF Adam Jones revealed a sprained right thumb. “I’m fine, basically. Just tough it out,” said Jones, who missed his seventh straight start because of the injury. “I’ve never really had this before. It’s new to me.”
Right-hander Jered Weaver will start Sunday for the Angels on three days rest, Scioscia said. Showalter said left-hander Brian Matusz would start one of the games in Monday’s doubleheader at Boston.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)