Jason Vargas isn't an exceptional pitcher, but he owns the Orioles completely, and he proved that again tonight when he limited them to three hits in a complete-game shutout. Miguel Gonzalez matched him for the first few innings, but two home runs (one each by Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout) proved to be the difference between the two.
The game started with both teams going down 1-2-3 in their half-innings. Trout gave a hint of what was to come by blasting a pitch over Adam Jones's head, but Jones raced back and made the catch to record the out. Mark Trumbo led off the bottom of the second with a home run on the first pitch he saw, which put the Angels up 1-0. Gonzalez, unfazed, tossed first-pitch strikes to the next three batters (Josh Hamilton, Howie Kendrick, and Alberto Callaspo), retiring them all. Unfortunately, the Orioles went 1-2-3 again in the top of the 3rd.
Things got a little more interesting in the bottom of the 3rd, when Erick Aybar doubled with two outs. Trout came up to bat and saw a wild pitch that moved Aybar up to 3rd. Trout then worked the count full and fouled off two more pitches before striking out swinging to end the threat. Both pitchers were throwing so many strikes that at this point, it was the longest at-bat in the game. The fourth inning, however, was uneventful.
The fifth inning featured some more drama, none of it good for us. First, Chris Davis injured himself trying to beat out a ground ball. His right leg came down really hard on first base, and he hopped around and limped in obvious pain. He was taken out of the game; reports came in that he is out with a right knee injury. Ouch. Not only is he the O's best hitter at the moment, he was replaced in the game with Ryan Flaherty, exposing a lack of depth. As if that wasn't enough, in the bottom half of the inning, Trout came up with J.B. Shuck on base and bashed a two-run home run to put the Angels up 3-0. It hardly mattered that J.J. Hardy had gotten the O's first hit in the top half.
Things skipped forward until the 7th when Jones doubled for the the O's second hit of the game. He was running hard and appeared to be heading to third base but tripped and scampered back to second. Flaherty, batting in place of Davis, grounded out to second base to move Jones to third. Wieters came up, took ball one, then grounded to Alberto Callaspo at third. Jones was going on contact, which turned out to be ill-advised as Callaspo fired to catcher Chris Ianetta, catching Jones in a rundown. Wieters ended up at first, and Hardy tapped out to short to end the inning.
Miguel Gonzalez left the game before the bottom of the seventh. At that point he'd thrown only 80 pitches (60 strikes), with no walks, five strikeouts, and three earned runs. Not a bad outing, and he'd certainly earned the right to pitch into the seventh. I was confused about why he was coming out of the game until the announcers mentioned it was due to a right thumb blister. Damn.
Troy Patton came in but fell victim to Mike Scioscia's run manufacturing facility. Callaspo walked, Ianetta flew out, Shuck bunted for a single, and Aybar popped out to Flaherty. Up comes ... Mike Trout. Dang, just can't get rid of the guy! He singled through Manny Machado and Hardy to score Callaspo. Shuck, rounding second and heading to third, actually ended up caught in a rundown. But Machado was late covering third base so Shuck, with his speed, was able to slide in under a late tag. Trout ended up at second base on the play.
Luckily, no further runs scored. Pedro Strop came in to limit the damage and showed flashes of his 2012 self, striking out Albert Pujols on three pitches to end the inning and then working a perfect 8th -- including Hamilton's third strikeout of the night. Unfortunately, the Orioles bats continued to slumber. They'd get one more hit, a Nick Markakis double in the 9th, before being put to bed by Jason Vargas on his 107th pitch of the game.