O's play their ace

Guthrie allows 1 run, wins fourth straight

Orioles 6 Indians 1

August 14, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

CLEVELAND - In the two days leading up to his start last night, Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie barely set foot in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. A big part of the reason was that he didn't feel like facing questions about the significance of pitching against his former team.

Then there was the matter of putting in the time preparing for his start, one he said was just like the other 52 starts of his career, even though his actions suggested it meant something far more.

When he faced the Cleveland Indians in two relief appearances last season, Guthrie was so affected by nerves that he allowed six earned runs in a total of 1 1/3 innings. But last night, he again showed how much he has matured, allowing one run in seven innings in the Orioles' 6-1 victory before an announced 21,299.

"I kind of had a sense of what this has meant to Guthrie, this entire process over the last year and this year. I think he has established for himself, and for our team, an identity as an Oriole," manager Dave Trembley said.

Nick Markakis had three hits and two RBIs, and Aubrey Huff hit a home run, his 25th, and drove in two runs for the Orioles (57-62), who broke open the game with a four-run ninth inning.

That put their three-game losing streak in the past and gave the Orioles an opportunity to salvage a series split with a victory tonight.

It all started with Guthrie, who ended a string of poor starting pitching performances by Orioles before his back tightened, forcing him out of the game after throwing 101 pitches. Guthrie (10-8) allowed just five base runners on four hits and a walk.

He has allowed one earned run in four straight starts - all wins - and in eight of his past 13 outings. Guthrie, who has won seven of his past eight decisions, is 5-1 with a 2.20 ERA in six starts after the All-Star break.

Asked whether last night's start had any more meaning than his other victories this season, Guthrie said: "I try to block those types of thoughts out. The sentiment might be that one would mean more than another one, but I'm just happy to pitch well against a tough team."

It was Guthrie's first career start against his former team, which selected him in the first round in the 2002 draft but never gave him consistent opportunities at the major league level. Over three seasons, Guthrie pitched in 16 big league games, all but one of them coming in relief.

Believing that several other prospects were progressing more quickly than Guthrie, Cleveland waived the right-hander in January 2007. The Orioles picked him up and have been counting their blessings since.

Grady Sizemore's fifth-inning double drove in the Indians' lone run. Guthrie's back started tightening up after the inning, but he got through two more innings before Trembley decided Guthrie's outing was over. He had already done plenty, including reminding his former team of the mistake they made.

"The way he's pitching right now, I can't imagine he's nervous pitching against anybody," Markakis said. "With the way he's throwing, we feel like we have a chance to win every game."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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