ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It seemed like bat-packing time.
The Baltimore Orioles were down to their last out. The California Angels were down to their best relief pitcher. The only thing that stood between Bryan Harvey and his 23rd save was Chito Martinez.
That's probably what Angels fans were wondering when the rookie outfielder hit a two-out, ninth-inning home run off one of the American League's top relievers last night to give the Orioles a 2-1 comeback victory at Anaheim Stadium.
Martinez, who has started six games in the major leagues and has hit safely in all of them, lined a 1-0 fastball into the empty bleachers behind right field to salvage a solid eight-inning performance by Orioles starter Jeff Ballard.
The Angels carried a 1-0 lead into the ninth, and the Orioles were down to their last out before there was anyone on base, but Randy Milligan poked a single through the infield and pinch runner Brady Anderson stole second to give Martinez a chance to tie the game with a single.
He did better than that, hitting his second home run in five days to wipe away an eight-inning, three-hit performance by hard-luck Angels starter Kirk McCaskill.
"It was a fastball pretty much right down the middle of the plate," Martinez said. "I think he was trying to get a strike in there. I was just going to go after the first pitch and try to get Brady home."
Ballard (6-9) walked off the mound after eight innings thinking he had pitched his first complete game since August 1989, albeit in a losing effort, but the ninth-inning comeback gave Todd Frohwirth the opportunity to pitch a perfect ninth and record his first major-league save.
"That's a big lift for me right there," Ballard said. "I pitched a good game and stayed right in there and someone popped one."
The Orioles rode into the game on a string of three strong pitching performances, even if Sunday's game at the Oakland Coliseum got away in extra innings.
Ben McDonald went eight innings to defeat the Oakland Athletics on Friday night, and four pitchers combined on a no-hitter Saturday before the club wasted a solid, 8 2/3 -inning start from right-hander Roy Smith.
Ballard was coming off a solid performance in the final game of the first half, but he needed a big defensive play to keep the Angels off the scoreboard in the second inning.
Dave Winfield led off the inning with an infield single and went to third on a base hit by Gary Gaetti, but he was thrown out trying to score on a medium-depth fly ball to center field. Mike Devereaux is not known for the strength of his throwing arm, but he got a running start and threw a perfect strike to Chris Hoiles, who withstood a bone-rattling body block from Winfield to record the final out of the inning.
Ballard was working on seven days' rest, but he picked up right where he left off at Yankee Stadium. He finessed his way out of a couple of early jams and carried a shutout into the fifth inning before Dick Schofield singled home Luis Sojo with the first run.
It was the first time since Sept. 7-11, 1989 that Ballard had victories in consecutive starts.
The Angels could be forgiven for trying to force the action in the second inning. They have spent the past 10 days in a deep offensive slump, finally ending a seven-game losing streak with a big performance at the plate against the New York Yankees on Sunday.
During the seven-game slide, they batted a combined .148 and went 60 innings without scoring more than one run in any inning. Entering last night's game, the Angels had scored first once in their previous 14 games.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff remains among the most effective in baseball, with McCaskill owning the only sub-.500 record among the top four starters.
McCaskill came into the game on a reverse roll. He had lost six of his previous seven decisions, but his 4.02 ERA (before the game) was better than that of every Orioles starter except Bob Milacki (4.01).
Perhaps that is why the Angels are fighting for a division title in the tough American League West while the Orioles are solidly entrenched in sixth place in the AL Least.
There have been offensive highlights along the way, but the Angels have yet to get production from throughout the batting order.
"We've been through some rough times lately," said catcher Lance Parrish, "but we're still in contention and we still have a good chance and we still think we're capable of winning this thing. We've had a tough week, but we're capable of putting something together and pulling away from everyone."
Angels manager Doug Rader is concerned about the offensive slowdown, but he is depending heavily on the experience of several veterans to pull the team out of it.
"We've got some real pros," Rader said. "The reason why that week was bearable was that you knew that at no time did they ever lose faith in themselves. That is never a cause for concern. They are resilient. They are strong people.
"Normally, you've got to ward off the panic. That's energy you don't have to expend."
The Orioles have nothing left to panic about. No one is ready to call off the division race, but it has reached the point where they are just looking for something to build their future around.
Angels fifth: Gallagher grounded out to third baseman Gomez. Sojo singled to third. Tingley grounded out to shortstop C. Ripken, Sojo to second. Schofield singled to right, Sojo scored. Rose singled to shortstop, Schofield to second. Joyner fouled out to third baseman Gomez. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Angels 1, Orioles 0.
Orioles ninth: Harvey pitching. Venable to left field. C. Ripken grounded out to shortstop Schofield. Horn struck out. Milligan singled to shortstop. Anderson ran for Milligan. Anderson stole second. Martinez homered to right on 1-0 count, Anderson and Martinez scored. Gomez safe at second on shortstop Schofield's throwing error. Hoiles struck out. 2 runs, 2 hits, 1 error, 1 left on. Orioles 2, Angels 1.