It all falls apart for Guthrie, O's

Starter allows career-high 7 runs

Mora hurt

Hernandez ejected

August 30, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The signs of another long and grueling September had already been evident long before Jeremy Guthrie suddenly resembled every other Orioles starter and Melvin Mora limped off the field with the assistance of head athletic trainer Richie Bancells.

How bad will things get for the Orioles over the next four weeks if their top starter buckles under the biggest workload of his young career and one of their most productive hitters is out of the lineup for an extended period?

The Orioles are hopeful they won't have to find out, though they might be without Mora for a little while. The veteran third baseman suffered a Grade I left hamstring strain in the third inning, adding injury to the insult of a 14-3 drubbing at the hands of the surging Tampa Bay Rays before an announced 21,439 at Tropicana Field.

The Orioles' eighth loss in the past 10 games - and their ninth loss in 12 contests against the Rays this season - was a thorough breakdown that started with Jeremy Guthrie's command and continued to the rest of the team's composure.

Guthrie completely lost his control, issuing four straight walks in the second inning en route to the shortest and worst start of his career. Then the Orioles (63-71) lost their composure, with plate umpire Sam Holbrook the target of their ire. Feeling Guthrie wasn't getting the borderline calls, pitching coach Rick Kranitz screamed at Holbrook from the dugout in the fourth inning.

Guthrie, who surrendered a career-high seven earned runs and allowed 13 of the 22 batters he faced to reach base, had words with Holbrook on his way off the mound. Later that inning, after the Rays' lead ballooned to 10-0 on Ben Zobrist's first career grand slam and Gabe Gross' solo shot - both off Fernando Cabrera - catcher Ramon Hernandez lashed out at Holbrook after an appeal to third base umpire Chad Fairchild was denied.

Hernandez was quickly ejected, though he got his money's worth, spiking his mask near home plate as Holbrook looked on. Hernandez's replacement, Guillermo Quiroz, yelled at a fan behind the visiting dugout after striking out in the top of the sixth, and then Cabrera appeared to take his frustration out on Orioles manager Dave Trembley in the sixth.

When Trembley came to take Cabrera out of the game, the pitcher flipped the ball up in the air before walking off the mound. That earned a stare from the Orioles manager, who has bigger concerns than the happiness of one of his struggling middle relievers.

Mora, who entered last night hitting a major league-best .399 after the All-Star break and just three RBIs shy of 100 this season, hurt his left hamstring taking an awkward step on first base trying to beat out a ground ball in the third inning. He immediately grabbed the back of his left leg before tumbling to the ground.

He'll be re-evaluated today and is considered day-to-day. A Grade I strain is considered the least severe hamstring injury. If he is out for an extended period, Aubrey Huff will likely become the Orioles' regular third baseman, with Luke Scott shifting to designated hitter and Lou Montanez seeing more regular time in left field.

Though Mora's absence will be damaging, any regression from Guthrie would be even worse for the pitching-starved Orioles. In three-plus innings, Guthrie allowed seven earned runs on seven hits and six walks. Over his past two starts, he has allowed 12 earned runs in a total of 9 2/3 innings after a stretch of six straight outings of two earned runs or fewer.

Whether it is fair, the consecutive performances have spurred inevitable questions of whether fatigue - and the pressure of carrying a bad pitching staff - has caught up to Guthrie. He has thrown 186 2/3 innings, 11 1/3 more than his career high.

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