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ANGELS' CLOUTS ONLY GO SO FAR L.A. HITS FOUR HRS, BUT LOSES ON WALK-OFF BLOW BALTIMORE 6, ANGELS 5.

Byline: DOUG PADILLA Staff Writer

BALTIMORE- The Angels got out of character Friday and while they certainly were entertaining, it became painfully obvious why they should not stray from their script.

The Angels certainly will welcome more home runs, like the four they hit in the series-opener against the Baltimore Orioles, but their 6-5 defeat on a walk-off home run from Ramon Hernandez in the ninth inning showed why they need to first take care of what they do best.

The pitching-and-defense, heart-and-soul of the club never could hit its stride and both contributed late to the defeat. It hardly mattered that the four home runs, including two in the first inning, broke a 50-inning homerless drought.

"We hit some home runs obviously tonight but we didn't pressure them much after the first couple of innings," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Any opportunities we had (Orioles starter Rodrigo) Lopez was able to make the pitch."

Angels starter Ervin Santana was not completely horrible, but he did give back three home runs to the Orioles. Scot Shields allowed an inherited runner to score in the eighth inning and allowed Hernandez's shot that the catcher punctuated with a two-handed flip of his bat as the ball barely cleared the wall in left.

The Angels' pitching-first gameplan certainly does not include allowing drives into the outfield seats, and their defense was supposed to be a complimentary piece to help with a scoring-challenged club.

While the Angels didn't commit any errors Friday, it was a passed ball by rookie catcher Jeff Mathis that loomed large.

In a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning, Mathis couldn't handle a tailing fastball from Shields and Brian Roberts was able to advance to second base. Melvin Mora rolled a ball through the right side to put the Orioles up 5-4.

Mathis redeemed himself somewhat in the ninth with his first career home run, but instead of it being the game-winner, it only tied the score.

Garret Anderson's two-run home run in the first inning was the Angels' first drive over the wall since Orlando Cabrera went deep in the first inning of the home opener April 7 against the New York Yankees.

One batter after Anderson, Juan Rivera crushed a home run to center field and it looked like it would be a short day for Lopez. In the second inning, Adam Kennedy added to Lopez's troubles with a home run that just cleared the giant scoreboard in right field.

With a 4-0 lead, it was Santana who started getting burned by the long ball. Jay Gibbons, David Newhan and Nick Markakis all went deep against Santana to tie the score 4-4 by the fifth inning.

Santana gave up four runs on six hits in seven innings. Lopez recovered to allow four runs on six hits in eight innings.

Santana did not pitch the eighth even though he threw only 83 pitches. Brian Roberts singled to right off reliever J.C. Romero two batters before Mora gave the Orioles the lead off Shields.

It was Shields who offered an emphatic cheer on Mathis' home run off LaTroy Hawkins, but he was walking off the field with his head down two batters into the bottom of the ninth. Shields and Mathis each took the blame for the passed ball.

On the full-count game-winning home run, Shields said he wanted to challenge Hernandez instead of issuing a walk. It proved costly. As for Hernandez's bat flip, Shields had no problem with it.

"That's a game-winning home run," he said. "I'm different from a lot of pitchers, I guess. If you hit a big game-winning home run, hey, you beat me. You can do whatever you want."

While he was feted in hugs and pats on the back at home plate after the home run, Hernandez also took some good-natured ribbing for showboating.

"We watched the replay and we saw it went into the second row," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "That wasn't the reaction we were expecting for a ball that went two rows deep."

doug.padilla@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2731

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero reacts as the Orioles' grounds crew cheers after a home run by David Newhan.

(2) The Angels' Adam Kennedy, top, hops over Orioles baserunner Brian Roberts after tagging him out.

(Chris Gardner/Associated Press)

Box:

ANGELS at BALTIMORE

- Doug Padilla
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 15, 2006
Words:735
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