Guthrie's better, but Orioles' offense fails in 3-0 loss to Rays

Rookie Jeremy Hellickson stymies O's offense by relying on fastball

May 13, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

St. Petersburg, Fla. — — Nearly a week ago, the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays faced off in a battle of the Jeremys at Camden Yards.

In that one, Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson was wild but effective while Orioles veteran Jeremy Guthrie was downright awful in one of the worst statistical outings of his career.

On Friday night at Tropicana Field, Guthrie pitched much better, but the end result was the same, another Orioles' loss, 3-0, to the red-hot Rays in front of an announced crowd of 20,476.

After sweeping them in the season-opening series in April, the Orioles (17-20) now have dropped four straight to the American League East leading Rays (23-15).

Tampa Bay got all the offense it needed in one swing in the second inning from Matt Joyce, who entered the night leading the AL in hitting with a .358 average.

Evan Longoria led off the second with a dribbler down the third base line that Mark Reynolds attempted to barehand but fumbled into left field. It was ruled a single.

On the next pitch, Matt Joyce hit a 91-mph fastball deep into the right-field stands for a 2-0 lead. It was the fifth homer of the season for Joyce, and the fifth allowed by Guthrie in a span of 11 innings over three games. He gave up another in the eighth, a solo shot to Johnny Damon.

Guthrie has now allowed two homers in each of his past three starts; he had served up just three homers in his first five starts of 2011, covering 32 innings.

Coming off his May 7 start in which he allowed seven earned runs in five innings, Guthrie rebounded Friday. He continually pitched out of jams, lasting eight innings and allowing seven hits, three runs and two walks while striking out five. He threw a season-high 117 pitches for the complete game.

Still, Guthrie (1-6) was tagged with the loss, his sixth straight, and he hasn't won since beating the Rays on Opening Day. He is tied with Chicago's John Danks for most losses in the American League.

Guthrie's record is misleading, considering the woeful amount of run support he has received this season. For the fifth time in his last seven starts, the Orioles didn't score a run while Guthrie was in the game.

The Orioles' right-hander shouldn't take it personally. Since the sixth inning on Wednesday, the Orioles have scored in just one of their past 23 innings, in the 12th on Thursday when they scored twice to win 2-1 over the Seattle Mariners.

The Orioles had chances against Hellickson (4-2), who retired the first seven batters he faced before giving up a single J.J. Hardy in the third. They had two runners on in both the fourth and fifth but couldn't capitalize.

With two outs in the fifth and Matt Wieters on second base, Mark Reynolds hit a slow grounder to third and Wieters slid into the base ahead of Longoria's tag. The infield single snapped an 0-for-17 skid for Reynolds.

But Hellickson (4-2) stranded the runners when Brian Roberts hit the first pitch he saw to center field for the third out. That triggered a run of 13 straight batters retired by Hellickson, who turned in his first career complete game.

Hellickson has now logged 14 consecutive scoreless innings against the Orioles, including last Saturday's performance in which he gave up three hits and five walks in five innings. This time, the 24-year-old relied more heavily on his fastball instead of relying on off-speed pitches. Eighteen of Hellickson's first 22 pitches were fastballs and he continued to pound the strike zone with his fastball throughout the night.

He gave up just four hits, one walk and struck out three.

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