Saunders lasted five innings, giving up four runs on 12 hits. His struggles were camouflaged only by a burst of power from Gary Matthews Jr., Torii Hunter and Robb Quinlan.
And don't count out the Angels' play in the field, with special emphasis on the right arm of catcher Jeff Mathis, who cut down Brian Roberts on an attempted steal of third in the first inning and picked him off at first in the ninth.
"There are a lot of different ways to win a ballgame," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
As for Saunders, Scioscia said, "It was just his command. The ball was up, but he battled. He just really wasn't in sync from the beginning."
From Saunders' perspective, the shelling was no more attractive.
"I knew from the get-go they were going to stay inside on me and use the right-field alley," he said. "I had my normal fastball, but my curveball was sporadic. When I got ahead on guys, it was a struggle for me to make my pitch."
The Orioles put together two runs on five hits in the first inning, including RBI singles by Kevin Millar and Ramon Hernandez.
The damage might have been far worse, had it not been for Mathis' nailing Roberts for the first out and a relay from left fielder Garret Anderson to shortstop Erick Aybar to second baseman Sean Rodriguez that got Hernandez. The Orioles' catcher thought the ball he hit off the left-field wall was a homer and by the time he got to second, the ball was there to meet him.
"When you get an extra out like that [in the first] it's huge," Mathis said. "We noted in meetings how [Roberts] likes to take third. Joe was aware of that and gave me a chance to throw him out, and luckily I made a good throw."
The Angels answered with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, on Matthews' leadoff shot and Hunter's three-run blast.
"Sometimes when you're hitting around .300, you cut your swing down," Hunter said, "but I said, 'Forget that.' Two weeks ago when I hit my last one, I just wanted to get the ball in the air. Things like that happen."
Melvin Mora's leadoff homer in the third made it 4-3, but the Angels got two more in the bottom half on Quinlan's homer, his first of the season.
Orioles starter Steve Trachsel (1-4) walked Rodriguez to begin the fourth, then left for the day, bemused.
"I'm just kind of really frustrated," Trachsel said. "I felt great. I warmed up well. I think I had some pretty decent stuff today. The guys gave me a quick two-run lead, which going against that starter is pretty nice. I just squandered it. I'm not real happy. I don't know what else to say."
The Orioles crept closer on Millar's RBI single in the fifth off Saunders and Nick Markakis' leadoff homer in the seventh off Justin Speier, who followed the shared relief duties of Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver in the sixth.
Scot Shields pitched a perfect eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez came on in the ninth to record his Major League-leading 13th save.
Mathis' pickoff throw to first baseman Casey Kotchman took advantage of Roberts' eagerness.
"Jeff's got free rein there to throw down," Scioscia said, "just based on reading the secondary lead."
"There are certain times when you look down there because it's a better spot for a guy to be getting a bigger lead," Mathis said. "Sometimes a guy may not get off very far, but I'll throw down there just to let him know that I'm watching him. And that helps me with my accuracy when I need to get a good throw down there."
Ted Brock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.