ANAHEIM, Calif. - -It seems like whenever Jeremy Guthrie pitches these days, he walks a fine line, one pitch here or there deciding his outing. On Thursday, it was actually two pitches that he made to Bobby Abreu, a batter Guthrie normally handles, that cost the Orioles the game.
Abreu, who entered the game with just two hits in 15 career at-bats against Guthrie and four homers all season, hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a three-run blast in the fifth as the Los Angeles Angels took the series opener, 5-2, in front of an announced 39,180 at Angel Stadium.
The two home runs, the 18th and American League-leading 19th Guthrie has surrendered this season, marred what was shaping up to be a solid outing. The Orioles' No. 1 starter allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out five over seven innings.
He just needed to be far better on a night when Angels ace John Lackey controlled the Orioles, allowing only two runs on Matt Wieters' RBI single in the fourth and Luke Scott's solo homer in the seventh over eight innings.
Overall, the Orioles managed just four hits off Lackey, and their top four hitters - Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff - went a combined 1-for-16 with five strikeouts. Huff got the lone hit in the ninth with a single off Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who then retired Nolan Reimold and Scott to pick up his AL-leading 23rd save.
Roberts went 0-for-4 and has only two hits in his past 27 at-bats. With men on first and third and just one out after Wieters' RBI single in the fifth tied the score at 1, Lackey struck out Robert Andino and Roberts to keep the game even.
But that changed in a big way in the bottom of the inning. It started with a triple from Maicer Izturis, the brother of injured Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis. After walking Mike Napoli, Guthrie retired Erick Aybar on a soft liner to Roberts at second base. However, Chone Figgins drove in Izturis with a blooper into shallow left field.
Abreu then lofted Guthrie's 0-2 pitch just over the scoreboard on the right-field wall to give the Angels a 5-1 lead.
The long flight to the West Coast without the benefit of a day off before starting the series with the Angels gave the Orioles little opportunity to dwell on Wednesday's gut-wrenching loss to the Boston Red Sox, in which the team gave up four runs in the ninth inning and then lost on Julio Lugo's RBI single in the 11th.
While much of the talk after that game centered on manager Dave Trembley's decision to pull rookie Brad Bergesen after eight innings of one-run ball and the subsequent meltdown by the team's two best relievers - setup man Jim Johnson and closer George Sherrill - the offense's role in the defeat cannot be overlooked.
After Ty Wigginton's solo homer in the fourth inning against Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, the last 24 Orioles hitters were retired in order.
That stretch continued into Thursday as Lackey retired the first eight batters he faced, leaving the streak at 32 consecutive Orioles set down in order bridging the two games.
It came to a merciful end with two outs in the third inning, when No. 9 hitter Andino lined a single over the head of shortstop Aybar. But Lackey, who has for the most part gotten better with each outing since missing the first 1 1/2 months of the season with a strained right forearm, struck out Roberts on a pitch in the dirt to strand Andino.
Guthrie was also sharp early, looking nothing like the pitcher who walked three batters, including two with the bases loaded, in his last start against the lowly Washington Nationals.
Guthrie pitched three scoreless innings to start his outing before he again was victimized by the long ball, which has caused trouble for him all year. Abreu led off the fourth inning by slamming Guthrie's 2-1 pitch over the wall and into the right-center-field seats.
The Orioles finally got something going in the fifth, an inning that started with Reimold's single to left field. With one out, Reimold swiped second base for the first steal of his career. After Wigginton walked, Wieters grounded a two-strike single into center field to score Reimold and tie the score at 1.
The Orioles still had men on first and third with one out, but Lackey struck out Andino and Roberts to end the inning.
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