BALTIMORE -- Albert Pujols got a tailing slider out over the plate, swung hard, lined it up towards the middle, flipped his bat with authority and exhaled deeply as he jogged towards first base late Thursday night.
Finally, after getting robbed by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado twice in one night, Pujols had snuck one through the infield.
Finally, after 12 innings of frustration in what has so far been a low-scoring first half, his offense scored a run.
Finally, after dropping back-to-back nail-biters from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Angels had a win.
"We could've easily gone out there and not cared about the last game of the series, but we fought," Pujols said after the Angels' 1-0 victory in 13 innings. "Great pitching from both sides."
Thanks to Pujols' single, and another lockdown bullpen effort in relief of an injured Tyler Skaggs, the Angels avoided their first three-game losing streak since May 31-June 3 and moved two games back of the idle A's for first place in the American League West.
The Angels (64-43) have played four extra-inning games in the second half, and their 13 games since the All-Star break have been decided by a total of 19 runs. During that span, the offense is batting .229 while averaging just over three runs per game - after averaging just over five a game in the first half.
"That's baseball," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "You're not going to win every game and you're not going to go out and out-slug everybody. Every team we've faced has good pitching."
Thursday's contest tied the July 22 Rangers-Yankees game in the Bronx for the longest scoreless game this season. The Angels finished the regular season 2-4 against the AL East-leading Orioles (60-47), with every game decided by less than three runs and all three in this series decided by only one.
As Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "It was a grind."
Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was asked if he felt his club was fortunate to take two of three.
"Fortunate?" Showalter responded. "No. We think we can compete with them, and we did."
Bud Norris executed his usual dominance against the Angels, shutting them out through seven innings despite scattering eight hits to put his ERA at 0.43 in 41 2/3 innings -- the best ERA of anyone who has ever registered more than 30 innings against the Angels.
Skaggs held the Orioles hitless through the first 4 2/3 innings, but walked Steve Pearce with two outs in the fifth and exited one pitch later with what the club later called a left forearm strain. An initial evaluation from the team's medical department deemed that Skaggs' ulnar collateral ligament is fine, which has him feeling positive, but Friday's MRI will provide a more definitive answer.
"I was looking forward to continuing to go out there," Skaggs said. "I felt like I was throwing the ball where I wanted to today. I'm pretty salty I didn't get to finish it out there."
The Angels' bullpen -- a bullpen that entered with a 1.85 ERA in July - had his back.
Mike Morin, Kevin Jepsen, Cory Rasmus and Hector Santiago held the Orioles scoreless for the next 7 1/3 innings, matching the work by Brad Brach, Tommy Hunter and, for the first inning, Ryan Webb. And in the 13th, the Angels' offense finally came to life.
Kole Calhoun led off with a walk and Mike Trout singled to left against Webb, putting runners on the corners with none out. Pujols -- robbed of a hit on an outstanding throw by Machado for the second time in this series -- followed with the RBI single that went for his second hit and put the Angels on the board.
"At the end of the day you need to stay positive, swing the way you are, don't try to change anything," Pujols said. "You've got nine guys on the field for a reason. They're going to make plays. Sometimes you're going to sneak one by, other times they're going to make the play. [Machado] is one of the best third basemen in the game. Young kid, 22, and the way that he carries himself, it's unbelievable. Great player."
Brian Matusz came in from the bullpen and struck out the side to end the inning, but Huston Street shut the Orioles down in the bottom half to record his 28th save of the season and his fourth since coming over from the Padres.
Finally, the Angels were able to use their new closer in this series.
"You want to be a part of it; you want to help the team," Street said. "The bullpen has really been pitching well, before I got here, for the last couple months especially. You want to be competitive. You want to get out there and just feel like you have a chance to help the team win. It was nice to."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.