Angels Find a Ray of Hope in 3-1 Win

Times Staff Writer

David Eckstein reached base leading off two innings and scored each time after advancing on sacrifices. Ramon Ortiz fought off a brief erratic stretch to deliver seven high-quality innings. Troy Percival pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

The Angels recaptured their World Series form Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, quite a transformation for a team that had spent the previous week fading from playoff contention.

Ortiz got the victory after surrendering an unearned run and combining with two relievers on a three-hitter as the Angels beat the Devil Rays, 3-1, at Tropicana Field to end a season-high, five-game losing streak.

Among other noteworthy contributors: First baseman Shawn Wooten made a superb defensive play in the sixth inning to prevent a run from scoring and Garret Anderson extended his season-high hitting streak to 14 games with two hits.

"It was a whole team effort," center fielder Darin Erstad said.

Said Eckstein, who stayed in the game even after being hit by a pitch in the ribs: "This is definitely the style of baseball that is going to make us successful."

Ortiz recorded his 50th career victory after another here-we-go-again start in which the Angels fell behind early but finally broke through with enough runs to secure their first victory in six games since the All-Star break.

"Losing is never good for you, especially when you go out and roll off four or five in a row," said Percival, who brought the potential tying run to the plate and needed 22 pitches to complete the ninth.

"Hopefully, that will be it for the second half and we can go out there and play our game."

The Angels played to perfection in the fourth, when Eckstein was hit by a pitch leading off and moved to second on Erstad's sacrifice bunt.

After Tim Salmon struck out, Anderson knocked in Eckstein to tie the score at 1-1 with a double that barely eluded center fielder Rocco Baldelli.

Eckstein reached in the sixth on a single and advanced to third on an Erstad single that dropped in front of left fielder Marlon Anderson and then rolled a few feet behind him.

Anderson appeared to have a play on Eckstein at third but inexplicably threw the ball toward second.

Salmon then drove in Eckstein with a sacrifice fly as the Angels took a 2-1 lead.

The Angels extended their advantage by a run in the eighth when Erstad singled to center, stole second and scored on Salmon's single to left.

Ortiz (12-7) issued two of his three walks in the second inning but would have escaped the two-on, two-out jam except for fill-in third baseman Scott Spiezio's errant throw to first on Julio Lugo's grounder. Spiezio, playing third because Troy Glaus was sidelined with stiffness in his right shoulder, threw the ball over Wooten's head, allowing Travis Lee to score.

Regularly inducing ground balls with an effective slider and changeup, Ortiz rebounded to shut out the Devil Rays in his final five innings.

Ortiz escaped a two-on, one-out situation in the fifth by striking out Aubrey Huff with a changeup and getting Baldelli to ground out to third.

The right-hander stranded Damian Rolls at third in the sixth when Wooten made a nice play to field a sharp grounder off the bat of Al Martin.

The Angels (50-48) have a chance to salvage two more victories during this three-city, eight-game trip when they open a series against Texas today.

"We played probably three or four games last week that we had opportunities to win," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "so it feels good to close one out and get it done."

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