ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Even after a postgame beer shower from his ecstatic Baltimore Orioles teammates, Stevie Wilkerson was shocked to learn he had just become the first position player in major league history to earn a save.
The Orioles’ center fielder certainly couldn’t believe he did it by throwing a perfect 16th inning way past midnight with a bunch of tepid lobs that never topped 56 mph.
“I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it yet,” Wilkerson said. “It was a wild game. It was crazy. I’m just glad I was a part of it.”
Wilkerson’s singular performance as the Orioles’ 10th pitcher was only the final flourish on a 6-hour, 19-minute epic that just might have been struggling Baltimore’s best win of the season.
Jonathan Villar threw out the Angels’ potential winning run at the plate in the 15th inning and then hit a two-run homer in the 16th as the Orioles persevered for a wild 10-8 victory over Los Angeles early Friday.
Wilkerson and Villar were the unlikely heroes of what turned into a thoroughly unique night at Angel Stadium. The Orioles have had little to celebrate during their woeful season, but they were proud of their grit and resilience while this game got weird.
“Yeah, I think that was the best day of the year for all of us,” said Villar, who snapped a 1-for-22 slump with his homer.
Both teams blew multi-run leads, and the Angels came within a desperate tag of walking off on Mike Trout’s bases-loaded double against Tanner Scott (1-0) in the bottom of the 15th. David Fletcher tried to score from first, but was called out on a bang-bang play at the plate.
Wilkerson went to get his pitching glove around the 13th inning because he figured he might be needed for his third relief appearance of the year. He moved from center to the mound in the 16th and sparked a few chuckles from the hearty remaining crowd in Anaheim with his underwhelming pitches.
But he got three straight outs when sluggers Brian Goodwin, Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols all made easy outs.
“I was just hoping somehow they would hit three balls at somebody,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s below hitting speed, so that’s hard.”
Wilkerson also became the first player in major league history to start and earn a save in the same game.
Moments before his homer, Villar also saved the game as the shortstop in the 15th when he cut down the potential winning run with a relay throw home on Trout’s two-run double that tied it at 8. The play was reviewed and the out call upheld just after 4 a.m. at the replay center in New York.
“Quite frankly, in my mind, he was safe,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “His hand was in there before the glove hit him in the chest. It’s a tough call for (plate umpire) Tony Randazzo, but I think New York missed it.”
Villar then connected off Griffin Canning (3-6), the Angels’ 10th pitcher and their scheduled starter for Friday’s game before this series opener spiraled into a magnificent mess.
The last-place Orioles rallied from a late two-run deficit and eventually snapped the Angels’ four-game winning streak, with the final out recorded just before 1:30 a.m.
Baltimore also improved to 1-62 when trailing after seven innings this season, while the Angels dropped to 46-1 when leading after seven.
The game seemed much simpler three hours earlier when the Angels were up 4-2 heading to the eighth inning after Calhoun’s three-run double. Trey Mancini put Baltimore up 5-4 with a homer in the ninth before Goodwin tied it in the bottom half with a one-out homer of his own.
And after five scoreless extra innings, the teams scored three runs apiece and resolved nothing in the surreal 15th.
Baltimore went up 8-5 in the top half with a rally highlighted by a two-run single from Jace Peterson, who was making his major league season debut.
But the Angels improbably answered — and came within a whisker of walking off. Pujols led off with a single before the Halos drew three walks from Scott to force in a run.
After winning 12 of their previous 18 games, the Angels were hoping for a dominant week at home against cellar-dwelling Baltimore and Detroit to make a push for the AL wild-card race heading into August. But now they’ll have to try it with their pitching staff in disarray for the next two days.
Pujols beat out an infield single in the seventh for his 3,155th career hit, passing George Brett for sole possession of 16th place in baseball history.
TITAN ON THE MOUND
Baltimore rookie Tom Eshelman entered in the third and pitched 4 1/3 innings of four-hit ball in his fourth big league appearance. Eshelman is a native of Carlsbad, California, who played down the street from Angel Stadium at Cal State Fullerton.
Angels: C Jonathan Lucroy will begin a rehab assignment Friday. He hasn’t played since Houston’s Jake Marisnick gave him a concussion and a broken nose in a collision at the plate right before the All-Star break.
The Angels will have some scrambling to do on the mound after Canning had to pitch in this game. They will face Baltimore’s Asher Wojciechowski (1-3, 3.91 ERA), who pitched 7 1/3 brilliant innings of scoreless 10-strikeout ball against Boston last week to get his first win of the season.
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