White Sox 6 Orioles 1

No support for Guthrie

O's bats go quiet

Konerko hits 2 HRs off starter

April 28, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

CHICAGO -- Jeremy Guthrie's two biggest mistakes yesterday landed in the left-field seats at U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, whom the Orioles tried to sign as a free agent before the 2006 season, hit a solo home run in the second inning and another in the sixth.

With the way the Orioles' offense produces when he is on the mound, Guthrie simply cannot afford to make any mistakes. Once again, the Orioles did little to support their No. 1 starter, getting shut down for the second time this season by Jose Contreras in a 6-1 defeat in front of an announced 29,756.

The loss left Guthrie 0-3 this season and winless since July 27 of last year, a stretch of 15 starts. Guthrie, who wasn't particularly sharp yesterday, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of the 15 starts.

"All you can do is try and pitch well," said Guthrie, who has a 4.34 ERA. "I feel great. I'm just pitching well enough to lose. Hopefully, I can get a little bit better and one or two runs will help me pitch well enough to win a game. But right now, I'm just pitching just good enough to lose each time."

The Orioles (14-11) fell to 3-3 on the road trip, which ends here today with Daniel Cabrera taking the mound against Javier Vazquez. Cabrera will have to hope the Orioles' offense awakes from the slumber it seems to fall into every time Guthrie pitches.

In Guthrie's six starts this season, the Orioles are averaging 3.17 runs . Heading into yesterday's start in which he allowed three earned runs over five-plus innings, he was getting the fifth-worst run support among starters in the American League.

"That's just baseball," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I don't think it's related to him. I don't take that approach. His job is not to worry about whether or not we score runs. His job is to go out there and pitch well, and he does that more times than not."

Guthrie was derailed yesterday, both by the power of Konerko and the patience of the White Sox's offense. Konerko's second-inning homer came on a 3-2 pitch. His homer in the sixth, which broke a tie at 1, was on an 0-2 fastball that caught way too much of the plate. In between, the White Sox fouled off many pitches, often forcing Guthrie to work deep into counts. He had already thrown 45 pitches by the end of the second inning.

"You try to throw strikes early and they were patient," Guthrie said. "I think that was the difference as well. I don't remember a lot of first-pitch swings. Good hitters do that."

Meanwhile, Contreras allowed just one earned run, on Brian Roberts' homer in the third inning, and five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Roberts accounted for two of the Orioles' hits and their only run.

Contreras is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA against the Orioles this year and 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA against everybody else.

"He's had our number these last two starts," Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff said.

Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, the Orioles brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Nick Markakis. However, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton struck Markakis out, with the Orioles' offensive struggles continuing on days Guthrie pitches.

"As long as I'm pitching well, keeping us in there and giving myself a pretty good chance to win, you can be pleased and you can build off it," Guthrie said. "You're not going to go home with a smile after the game, but at the same time, you have to realize that if you continue to do that, it can swing in a heartbeat and all of a sudden, you can reel off some wins."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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