K-Rod blows save, but Angels beat O's Sherrill on bases-loaded walk

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Francisco Rodriguez and George Sherrill were teammates in the All-Star Game three weeks ago. Neither closer pitched like a star Monday night.

Sherrill walked Chone Figgins with two outs in the ninth inning to force in the winning run, and the Los Angeles Angels regrouped to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 after Rodriguez blew a four-run lead.

"That's not our modus operandi," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We had to earn it. We had to come back and win it. They have a pretty good bullpen."

Kevin Millar led off the Orioles' ninth with a leadoff single against Scot Shields, who retired the next two batters. But pinch-hitter Alex Cintron kept the rally going with a single, bringing Rodriguez into the game.

The major league saves leader came in to face switch-hitter Brian Roberts, whose grounder toward the hole was booted for an error by two-time Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira -- playing his first home game for the Angels after a trade from Atlanta. Nick Markakis followed with a two-run single and Melvin Mora tied it with a two-run double.

"I was surprised they took Shields out of the game and brought K-Rod in," Mora said. "But I like that situation, especially when you see the best pitcher out there. He's the best closer in baseball right now, so you have nothing to lose. You just try to tie the game and see what happens, and Nick gave me a chance to do it."

Sherrill, who pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the All-Star Game, was working his second inning of relief when he gave up Torii Hunter's leadoff double. Hunter advanced on a groundout before Howie Kendrick was intentionally walked. Juan Rivera popped out, but Sherrill (3-5) walked Jeff Mathis and the left-hander went to 3-2 on Figgins before throwing his next pitch above the letters.

"I think the pressure is on him," Figgins said. "In that situation he has to keep the ball in the zone and come to me."

Rodriguez (1-2) was credited with the victory despite his fourth blown save in 49 chances.

"I'm real proud of the team. They came back against the best team in baseball in the ninth inning after two were out and gave ourselves a chance to win," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "I've got a lot of respect for them. I wish we could have won the game because it would have been something special for us, but I think we showed what we're made of. The actions speak louder than anything you could say."

Joe Saunders, trying to tie for the major league lead with 15 wins, left after six innings with a 5-1 lead. The All-Star left-hander allowed a run and six hits.

Baltimore's only run off him came without the benefit of a hit, after Saunders hit Luke Scott with a pitch and walked two batters. Scott came home on a groundout by Markakis.

The Angels have won 15 of 19 and are off to the best start in franchise history with a major league-leading 70-42 record -- two games better than the 1989 club.

Baltimore's Dennis Sarfate gave up five runs, six hits and three walks over three-plus innings in his second big league start.

"I'm just trying to make the adjustment from the bullpen to the starting rotation and getting a different mentality. But I need to take a little bit of the pressure off myself and the way I think, and just go after guys," Sarfate said. "My wife text-messaged me after I got back in here and said: 'You're trying too hard.' But that's always been my thing."

Teixeira robbed Aubrey Huff of a potential extra-base hit with a lunging grab of his first-inning grounder, then opened the scoring in the bottom half with a broken-bat RBI single.

His second time up, Teixeira hit a line drive so hard off the 18-foot wall in right-center that he had to settle for a single. Two pitches later, Vladimir Guerrero hit his 19th homer, giving the Angels a 3-0 lead.

Sarfate hit Mathis with a pitch for the second consecutive time to open the fourth, leading to a pair of runs that extended the margin to 5-0. Randor Bierd plunked Hunter on the left wrist to force in a run, and Teixeira scored on an infield single by Garret Anderson that extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

Game notes
After the game, the Orioles optioned INF Brandon Fahey to Triple-A Norfolk to open a roster spot for LHP Chris Waters, who will make his major league debut Tuesday night against Jon Garland. ... CF Adam Jones, who fouled a ball off his foot Saturday night against Seattle, underwent a CT scan on his left foot and left the team after the game to return to Baltimore for an MRI. ... Teixeira was assigned a place of honor in the Angels' clubhouse by clubhouse manager Ken Higdon -- Tim Salmon's old locker. Salmon, who retired after the 2006 season, is the franchise leader in home runs with 299.