Winners of three of their last four and still one of the surprise stories of the first half of 2012, the Baltimore Orioles continue their set with the LA Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium.
With a record of 45-38, not only are the Orioles sitting in second place in the American League East behind only the New York Yankees, the squad is also a full month ahead of last year when it didn't record its 45th victory until August 10, en route to a disappointing 69-93 finish.
On Friday the O's scored all three of their runs in the fifth inning as they held off the Angels in a 3-2 final. Steve Pearce was the offensive hero for the visitors as he delivered a three-run home run that plated both Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds.
Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez captured his first win of the season as he held the hosts to just a single run on three hits, striking out six over seven innings of work. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 26th win of the year.
"All the hard work, the ups and downs I've had, obviously that pushed me back a little bit, but I'm here now," said Gonzalez, who was released by the Red Sox this winter and pitched in the Mexican Winter League before signing with Baltimore in February. "And I'm going to do my best to help out the team and just keep going."
C.J. Wilson was handed the loss as the Angels hurler gave up the home run to Pearce in addition to three other hits and three walks through seven innings.
Mark Trumbo notched his 21st home run of the season for Anaheim and rookie phenom Mike Trout also posted a solo home run, his 11th, and maintained the top spot among AL hitters with an average of .347.
After starting off the season with a 6-1 mark, Jason Hammel is now trying to snap a personal two-game slide as he heads to the hill to take on the Angels tonight.
Hammel, who was shelled by Anaheim on June 27 as he permitted eight runs on eight hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings, more recently bowed to Seattle on the road earlier this week and is now 8-4 on the campaign overall.
The right-hander was tagged for four runs on seven hits and a couple bases-on- balls, although he did manage to strike out eight Mariners in 6 2/3 innings. Still, Hammel was saddled with the loss in a 6-3 final.
Because the appearance against the Angels recently was so awkward, it should come to little surprise that through three career games against the club, Hammel is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA.
As for the Angels, they have their ace Jered Weaver shooting for his 10th victory of the season, against just a single loss. The right-hander has been virtually untouchable thus far, save for a matchup against Texas the second week of May when he allowed eight runs on 10 hits in a mere 3 1/3 innings.
However, since that brutal outing Weaver has won four of his six appearances, the most recent of those coming on Monday when he worked through seven shutout innings against Cleveland on the road, permitting five hits and walking three, while striking out only two in a 3-0 victory. In the process, Weaver dropped his ERA down to just 2.13 which leads the league.
On June 27 Weaver clashed with Baltimore on the road and was given plenty of run support in a 13-1 triumph. The hurler made it through 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run on six hits and a walk, fanning six. For his career the California native has a record of 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA versus the Orioles.
The Angels, losers of three of their last four outings, are still just four games out of first in the AL West thanks in large part to Trout who, through just 62 games, has 87 hits and has scored a team-high 55 runs. Even though he is batting just .240 over the last seven days, Trumbo has been a huge factor in LA's success as he helps compensate for the slow start by Albert Pujols.