BALTIMORE (AP) — Both teams were outstanding defensively. The pitching was sharp, too.
A well-played game between the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles was ultimately turned on one swing by Nick Markakis, who has made a habit of delivering the big hit in pressure situations this season.
Miguel Gonzalez allowed one run over eight innings and Markakis hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the seventh inning to give Baltimore a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
Light-hitting Ryan Flaherty contributed two well-timed hits for the Orioles, whose third straight victory put them a season-high nine games over .500 (37-28). Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Wednesday afternoon.
With the score tied at 1, the Orioles used two-out infield hits by Danny Valencia, Steve Pearce and Flaherty to load the bases in the seventh. Left-hander Scott Downs was then brought in to face Markakis, who lined a single to center for a 3-1 lead.
“You want to be in those situations,” said Markakis, who’s now batting .346 with 10 RBIs when there are two outs and runners in scoring position. “I’ve faced Downs enough to know what he’s going to do up there. He tries to sink the ball in on lefty’s hands and he does a good job of it. I was just looking for a ball up in the zone.
“Anything up that I could reach, I was swinging. He left one up over the plate, I put a good swing on it and we scored two runs.”
Markakis also made two fine plays in right field, third baseman Manny Machado made several fine pickups and first baseman Chris Davis snagged a smoking line drive that began an unassisted double play.
But Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos made the defensive play of the night, robbing J.J. Hardy of a two-run homer in the first inning. After retreating toward the warning track, Bourjos pressed his body against the wall with a perfectly timed leap, stuck his glove well over the 7-foot barrier and caught the ball.
“When fans come to a game, that’s what they expect — good defense, hitting and good pitching,” Markakis said. “You saw that tonight, and it was a good ballgame.”
Especially for the Orioles. Los Angeles lost its fourth in a row despite getting a solid outing from left-hander Jason Vargas and a home run by Mike Trout that traveled an estimated 448 feet.
“Both guys were throwing the ball well,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I really liked the way Jason Vargas pitched tonight. Three infield hits in the seventh inning kind of set the table for them and they got the big hit from Markakis.”
Vargas (5-4) allowed three runs, seven hits and a walk in 6 2-3 sharp innings. The loss ended the left-hander’s five-game winning streak — a run that started with a shutout of Baltimore on May 3.
“That happens when you leave runners on base,” Vargas said. “Granted, the balls weren’t hit that well.”
Howie Kendrick had two hits for Los Angeles, which has dropped nine of 11.
Gonzalez (4-2) gave up four hits, walked one and struck out five.
Jim Johnson got two outs in the ninth before Josh Hamilton doubled and scored on a single by Albert Pujols. Johnson then struck out Mark Trumbo to earn his 23rd save, and third in three games.
Poised to throw his first career complete game, Gonzalez was removed by manager Buck Showalter after throwing 96 pitches.
Asked if he wanted to go nine innings, Gonzalez said, “That would have been fun. But Buck knows what he’s doing, and J.J. did a good job finishing the game.”
Trout put the Angels up 1-0 in the fourth with his 12th home run, the second in two nights. It’s the ninth time in his career he’s homered in successive games.
In the bottom half, Hardy was thwarted in a second straight at-bat. After being victimized earlier by Bourjos, Hardy popped a foul toward the seats in left. As Trout prepared to make the catch, a fan wearing a Trout jersey stuck his glove in the way. The ball bounced off the fan’s mitt and landed on the ground, but third base umpire Joe West called Hardy out because of fan interference.
Held to two hits through five innings, the Orioles pulled even in the sixth. No. 9 hitter Flaherty singled and Markakis followed with a single that momentarily handcuffed Bourjos for an error, putting runners at second and third. Manny Machado followed with an RBI grounder, providing Baltimore with its first run against Vargas in 15 innings this season.
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