Orioles' bats alive in 8-4 win over Rays

September 04, 2010|By Don Markus | Baltimore Sun reporter

Orioles manager Buck Showalter talked before Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays about not letting good teams -- and good starting pitchers -- off the hook.

His team had done that in a loss to the Boston Red Sox and Jon Lester Wednesday, and in another to the Rays and Matt Garza Friday.

Instead of allowing James Shields to do the same, the Orioles helped the 28-year-old righthander get the hook in a little more than four innings of what turned out to a be an 8-4 victory before an announced crowd of 18,943. It was the second straight time the Orioles defeated a pitcher who had won his last four decisions at Camden Yards.

Nick Markakis' first home run in nearly a month gave the Orioles an early 2-1 lead, a bases-clearing double by Matt Wieters in the third provided starter Jeremy Guthrie with some rare breathing room and three subsequent runs helped the Orioles match their biggest offensive outburst in a dozen games.

The victory enabled the Orioles (50-86) to break a three-game losing streak, Guthrie (9-13) to win for the sixth time in nine starts since the All-Star break and Showalter to notch his 900th win as a big league manager. But the win was just the fourth in 14 games this season against Tampa Bay (83-52), and only the sixth for the Orioles in 38 games in 2010 against the American League East.

Asked about the managing milestone, Showalter said, "My daughter called me a couple nights ago and left me a message, so she made me aware of it and I'd forgotten it a little bit. It means I've had some good players and someone's given me an opportunity to do this a long time. That's about the extent of it. I've had a lot of losses, too. You got them? (846). I remember just about every one of those. Just reminds you how lucky you are to do this, to have a chance to do it. Had a lot of good players."

Showalter said that Markakis' two-run home run into the right field bleachers -- only his ninth this season and first since Aug. 5 -- set the tone on a night. It came after Guthrie (9-13) had been knocked around a little in the top of the first, giving up a leadoff home run to rookie catcher John Jano and then watched shots from Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria go foul.

"I thought the two runs in the bottom of the inning ... you give up a run like that early, first hitter, that changed the karma of the game a little bit," Showalter said.

"He [Guthrie] was a little stronger as he went on. I thought his last inning was about as good an inning as he pitched. I said it before, you realized how important these games are to Tampa and they're firing on all cylinders. To be able to do that this time of year is pretty impressive."

After giving up the home run in the first, Guthrie got through seven innings for the seventh time in his last 10 starts. He is now 5-2 since Showalter took over, and his ERA since the All-Star break is a rather tidy 2.51. Though he tied a season-high with 116 pitches, Guthrie also had a season-best seven strikeouts, including one on a full count to B.J. Upton in the fourth with two on, two out and the Orioles ahead 5-2.

It came after Upton had nearly put one out, also on 3-2, the ball curling just outside the left field foul pole.

"He took that slider and could have tied the game up with that home run, it just went foul," said Guthrie, who also gave up a run in the fourth when centerfielder Corey Patterson, playing for an injured Adam Jones, misread a deep fly by Crawford into a ground-rule double leading off. "To keep the momentum on our side, as best as I could after giving up the one run. That was an important part of the game for sure."

So were the eight runs and 15 hits -- everybody but Julio Lugo had at least one, with six players getting at least two -- that proved to be an unusual amount of offensive support for Guthrie.

"It's great. We've been swinging the bats really, really well for a long stretch now. I think this is the kind of offensive production that everyone kind of expected going into it [the season]," Guthrie said. "And it's nice to see it happening consistently for us."

The only real blip for the Orioles Saturday came when Koji Uehara, who recently assumed the closer role, took over after Michael Gonzales struck out of the side in the eighth. Uehara got cleanup hitter Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena to fly out, but Matt Joyce and Brad Hawpe hit back-to-back home runs to cut into what had been a six-run lead.

Showalter said that he put Uehara in since 35-year-old had three days off after a recent stretch of giving up only two earned runs over 22 innings in his last 19 appearances.

"You never know what next day brings," Showalter said of Uehara, I don't think you see the challenge in those situations. I see a lot of guys who had a history of closing struggle there. I don't think I've ever had a guy who didn't."

Not in this town, where the Orioles have been letting good teams and good pitchers off the hook for a lot longer than the past week.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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