With the weather looking suspect and a series of potential rainouts threatening to throw the Orioles' rotation in flux, Jeremy Guthrie approached manager Dave Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz last weekend in Minnesota and delivered a message.
"He told both Kranny and I, 'Hey, if you need me to come back on three days' rest to face Cleveland, I'll do that,' " Trembley said. "So that kind of tipped me off that he was going to be ready to pitch today. But I was there with Guthrie in the minor leagues when he was pitching for the Indians on the other side, and I'm sure this is a big game for him. He may not say it, but I'm sure this was a big game for him."
Guthrie was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2002 and was unceremoniously put on waivers by the club in January 2007. He dominated his former team Friday night, allowing just one run and two hits in eight innings as the Orioles pounded the Indians, 8-1, at Camden Yards in front of an announced 25,902 fans, who waited out a one-hour, seven-minute rain delay and watched the home team break the game open with a four-run sixth inning.
In the Orioles' third straight win, Guthrie survived a rocky 25-pitch first inning, in which he gave up his only run on Jhonny Peralta's bloop single, and retired 16 straight Indians at one point, and 22 of the final 24 hitters he faced.
"I was really focused out there," said Guthrie, who improved to 2-4 with a 4.13 ERA. "You always want to pitch well when you face friends and people you worked with. You want to show them the best side you have, just like you do for your current team. It's nice to go out there and be able to win this game tonight.
"There's nothing really to prove. Where I'm at, I'm very pleased. They gave me a great opportunity, and the Orioles gave me the same opportunity here. I can't really have any complaints either way."
Trembley had Will Ohman ready in the bullpen with two outs in the eighth inning when he came out for a brief consultation with his starter, whose pitch count was at 109. When Trembley left Guthrie in the game, the Orioles' much-maligned manager got a standing ovation from the crowd. Guthrie then retired Grady Sizemore on a ground out to end the inning, and his outing.
"I said: 'You've earned the opportunity to be out here and finish this thing off. I trust you'll give it to me straight. If you're out of gas, tell me. If you want it, go ahead,' " Trembley said. "And he said, 'I'll get him out,' and I turned around and walked away. I think you have to have confidence in your people and you've got to trust your people, and if there's anybody I know on this club, I know Guthrie. I've known him from a long time ago, and I know him now."
With the way the Orioles were squandering scoring opportunities early in the game, it appeared that Guthrie would again have very little margin for error. But that all changed in the sixth inning when third baseman Miguel Tejada broke the ice with a two-run single after Cleveland manager Manny Acta elected to have Justin Masterson intentionally walk Nick Markakis to load the bases.
"It doesn't [tick] me off, but in those situations, I am more relaxed," said Tejada, who was hit by a pitch from Masterson in the third inning. "With runners in scoring position, I like to be relaxed and not try too hard. I think that's why I love it. I love that situation. I love seeing the people cheer when that situation comes.
The suddenly red-hot Luke Scott followed Tejada's two-RBI single, which gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead, with a run-scoring single of his own, and then Ty Wigginton drove in a run with a single. Before those three at-bats, the Orioles had been 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position through the first five innings.
"I think we all help each other as a lineup," said Scott, who has three straight multi-hit games after having just one in his first 26 games of the season. "There are certain pieces of the lineup in the middle of the order that is the engine of your offense. But we all help each other. This is the best I felt all year. There is no confusion when I am up there. I am comfortable. I am just really relaxed."
The Orioles totaled 16 hits, and five players had multi-hit games. Tejada was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Scott continued notched three hits and two RBIs. Leadoff man Corey Patterson also went 3-for-4 and made a nice leaping catch at the wall in left field to rob Shin-Soo Choo of an extra-base hit in the third inning.
Overall, the top six hitters in the Orioles' order were a combined 14-for-26 with six RBIs. But the story was Guthrie, who continues to put a miserable 2009 season further behind him with each outing.
"I felt at the end of spring, with the adjustment that I made arm-slot-wise, I felt like when I pitched, I had weapons to use against the hitters and that's something I never really felt last year or certainly not in a consistent way," Guthrie said. "It hardly happened in any start. That's the biggest thing, I'm confident. I feel like I have the pitches to get people out and that's important."
Said Tejada: "Today, he really looked like the guy I've seen before."