Parker Bridwell worked fast and with purpose, as if he wanted to dispose of his former team as quickly as possible.
The 6-foot-4 rail-thin rookie threw hard Tuesday night and held the Baltimore Orioles to one run in seven innings of a 3-2 win in his first start against the team that traded him to the Angels for cash considerations in April.
"Obviously, it's a little bit sweeter, but I had to execute my pitches just like a normal start, and luckily I came out and I did that," Bridwell said. "It worked in my favor."
The win extended an impressive run for Bridwell, a 2010 draft pick by Baltimore. He improved to 6-1 with the Angels, whose fire also materialized with the ejections of Albert Pujols and manager Mike Scioscia in the sixth inning.
But the bottom half of the lineup provided the balm. Struggling Luis Valbuena doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. C.J. Cron followed with his second RBI single of the game for a 3-1 lead. Relievers Cam Bedrosian and Keynan Middleton narrowly finished the game — Middleton surrendered a two-out home run to Caleb Joseph but earned his first major league save as the Angels ended a three-game losing streak.
Scioscia said they used Middleton because they want fresh arms, especially with Blake Parker and Bud Norris "up there an awful lot" with their workloads.
"His stuff's electric," Scioscia said of Middleton. "I think he's got back-end-of-the-bullpen-type stuff, and right now there's definitely an opportunity. … What he did tonight was a step in the right direction."
Bridwell started with four scoreless innings and escaped the fifth inning with one run allowed after he gave up hits to the first three batters, including a hard-hit double by Seth Smith. Bridwell retired the next three hitters thanks to a deft, inning-ending catch by Cameron Maybin in left field.
"That was huge," Bridwell said. "It's a normal occurrence every time I pitch, someone makes a play like that."
The Angels struck first on Cron's single through the third-base hole that scored Andrelton Simmons in the second inning.
Baltimore's Jeremy Hellickson retired 13 of the next 14 batters, capped by a check-swing strikeout by Pujols. Pujols raised his arms in disbelief at first base umpire Ramon De Jesus and was soon tossed out for the first time this season and eighth time in his career.
Scioscia said Pujols raised his hands at the bat rack.
"He just raised his hands and got thrown out," Scioscia said. "I think it was an overreaction from Ramon. It's an important [point] of the game. He certainly wasn't up at the front step yelling at him or drawing attention."
The win eased the testiness. And in the bigger picture, pitching help could be on the way with Andrew Heaney in his return from elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Scioscia left open the possibility that Heaney's next start could be with the Angels but that he was still being evaluated in his minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Garrett Richards continues to throw short bullpen sessions. Scioscia cautioned that it's a gradual ramping up but also said that, in a September situation, with the Angels in a playoff chase, he would consider Richards initially returning for a short start.
Yunel Escobar was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a mild Grade 1 oblique strain and is expected to miss about two to three weeks. Valbuena has been the primary backup at third base, but Scioscia said they'll "mix and match" in filling that spot, possibly with Kaleb Cowart, who has started one game at third but played there in the minors. Valbuena is hitting .189 after Tuesday and hasn't cracked .200 since mid-May. ... Andrew Bailey (shoulder) has shown improvement during his rehabilitation assignment but will continue to be evaluated this week. … Matt Shoemaker had season-ending surgery to release the radial nerve in his right forearm. … Right-hander Eduardo Paredes was recalled.