Angels 4, Orioles 3

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BALTIMORE (AP)—Mike Napoli took the precise throw from Vladimir Guerrero and blocked the plate. Melvin Mora broke into a slide, spikes high.

With the outcome of the game hanging in the balance, Napoli and Mora collided violently.

Mora ripped into Napoli, tearing off part of the catcher’s shin guard in the process. Napoli applied the tag, rose to show umpire Garry Davis the ball, then collapsed after getting the out call that sealed the Los Angeles Angels’ 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

The Angels held a celebration while Napoli squirmed on the ground. When the high-fives were done, Napoli had to be helped off the field.

“I had to do what I had to do,” he said. “Final play at home plate to end the game—it runs through my mind all the time. That’s like getting a walk-off home run.”

Unfortunately, afterward he could barely walk.

“The X-rays look pretty good; it’s probably a high ankle sprain. I don’t think there’s anything broken,” Napoli said.

Mora wasn’t in much better shape. His left foot was bruised and wrapped. Upon limping to a couch in the middle of the Baltimore clubhouse, he was given pills for the pain by Orioles trainer Brian Ebel.

Replays indicated that Mora might have beaten the tag. But as he lifted himself from the field, Mora didn’t care.

“They say I was safe, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about the pain I have in my foot,” said Mora, who couldn’t remember being involved in such a fierce collision.

Mora hit a one-out double in the ninth and took third on a bunt single by Jay Payton before Brian Roberts hit a short fly to right. After making a basket catch, Guerrero fired the ball while Mora headed home after tagging up from third.

“A great throw by Vladdy to get that ball on the run. Mike did a great job of getting the ball and getting the tag out front,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re kind of the walking wounded after the game.”

John Lackey outpitched rookie Jeremy Guthrie to earn his 11th win, and Casey Kotchman and Napoli hit slump-breaking home runs for the Angels. Los Angeles took two of three from Baltimore to improve to 51-31, the best record in franchise history after 82 games.

Lackey (11-5) allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings, striking out five and walking three. His 11 wins is tied for second in the AL behind C.C. Sabathia (12).

The most glaring flaw in Lackey’s performance was the second inning, when he gave up a double to Kevin Millar and a home run to Payton. Lackey didn’t give up another hit until the eighth, when Roberts led off with a pinch-hit double.

Chris Gomez followed with a single, moving Roberts to third, and Lackey struck out Corey Patterson before being replaced by Scot Shields.

With pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez at the plate, pinch-runner Freddie Bynum broke for second, and Hernandez grounded a single through the spot vacated when shortstop Orlando Cabrera moved to his left to cover second base. Roberts scored, and Hernandez moved to second on a throwing error by left fielder Nick Gorneault.

With the Angels infield drawn in, Shields retired Nick Markakis on a grounder for the second out. Francisco Rodriguez got Millar to hit a pop up, then worked the ninth for his 24th save.

But not without an anxious moment at the plate—one that ended with two players hurt and only one team savoring the finish.

“Sometimes the other team is celebrating and you’re limping off the field carrying an L,” Scioscia said. “Obviously it feels better when it results in a win.”

Guthrie (4-2) surrendered four runs and four hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking none, but lost for the first time in 11 starts.

Guthrie was perfect through three innings, then came unglued in the fourth. Chone Figgins hit a leadoff single and scored on a one-out double by Guerrero before Kotchman ended an 0-for-19 drought with a drive off the top of the 25-foot scoreboard in right field.

It was the first time in 12 starts this season that Guthrie gave up as many as three runs in an inning. He had not allowed more than three runs in any start this year before Sunday.

After allowing the home run to Kotchman, Guthrie retired the next 11 batters until Napoli snapped an 0-for-13 skid with his eighth home run.

That was enough backing for Lackey, who’s 6-2 with 3.41 ERA lifetime against Baltimore.

Notes

Angels LF Erick Aybar left the game in the third inning with a bruised right hand. X-rays were inconclusive; he will be re-examined Monday in Texas. … Payton’s home run was his second of the year; the other came on May 4. … Figgins has a 13-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 26 of his last 27 games.

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