Friday, May 30, 2008

Disappointing outcome for solid Guthrie

BALTIMORE -- Somewhere in his subconscious, and perhaps even someplace shallow, Jeremy Guthrie has to be begging for a blowout. The right-hander turned in another one of his trademarked performances on Wednesday night, when he held the Yankees to a modest run total and still saw the Orioles fall to a narrow 4-2 defeat.

Somehow, that's become the norm for Guthrie. Baltimore's Opening Day starter has allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of his 12 starts, but the Orioles have managed a grand total of eight runs in his six losses. Nine of Guthrie's 12 outings have been decided by two runs or less, and he's racked up a 2-4 record with three no-decisions in those games.

"It seems like every game Guthrie pitches is a well-pitched game on the other side," said manager Dave Trembley. "It's just worked out that way. All the games are close for him. He takes you late into every ballgame, but for whatever reason, we're just not scoring any runs when he's out there. But he certainly gives you everything he's got."

"I thought about that for the last five days," added Guthrie. "You enjoy the opportunity to be in a scuffle, to be in a fight. Personally, I'm able to be in one of those -- it seems like -- every five days, where every pitch matters, where every at-bat is big. You enjoy that and that's what makes this game fun. Unfortunately, for me, it's not going the right way."

His latest start was fairly typical as far as those evenings go. Guthrie (2-6) fell behind on a Jason Giambi single in the second inning, but the Orioles (26-26) managed to push ahead in the third. Giambi tied the game in the fourth inning on a monstrous home run over the right-field fence, and the Yankees (26-27) went ahead for good on a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

The Orioles got all of their offense in the third inning, courtesy of a two-run home run by third baseman Melvin Mora. The home team had another strong chance in the fifth inning, but wound up stranding two runners in scoring position. Andy Pettitte, who started for the Yankees, worked into the seventh inning and handed his bullpen a one-run advantage.

"Both pitchers threw pretty good today," Mora said. "I was just thinking, 'OK, we've got the lead. Let's see if we can score some more runs.' With the Yankees lineup, you cannot wait until the end. Anybody can crush the ball."

"[Guthrie] pitched well again," said Trembley. "It just so happened that Pettitte pitched better. They took advantage of the opportunities they had, and we didn't do enough things that we should have done to win the game."

Guthrie endured a similar stretch in 2007, when he closed out his year by going nine starts without a win. He allowed three earned runs or less in 21 of his 26 starts during his rookie season, but Baltimore went 4-11 when he pitched in a game decided by two runs or less. And Guthrie, staked to little or no support, went 2-4 with 11 no-decisions in those games.

"Last year, I got no-decisions for the most part," Guthrie said. "This year I feel like I'm throwing the ball very similar. Consistent. This year, I'm taking losses instead of no-decisions. It compares somewhat to last year, to a stretch I had in May and June."

Second baseman Brian Roberts was involved in a key play for the Orioles during the fifth inning. The fleet-footed leadoff man doubled with one out in the fifth, but he was caught leaning off base and charged with a caught stealing. The Orioles went on to draw a walk and notch a double in that inning, but Pettitte kept them from tying the game.

"It was a pivotal part of the game," said Trembley, breaking it down. "We felt we could steal third. The game is such that after those things happen, you get the hits. I've been in situations before, you put a hit-and-run on and the guy gets thrown out. You know what's going to happen next. The next pitch, the guy gets a base hit. That's how the game is."

"We don't want to stop Brian Roberts from being aggressive," Mora said. "We want him to be aggressive, because when he gets on base, that's when pitchers make a mistake to us. He has to continue to do what he does."

New York's final run scored in the ninth inning, giving the road team an extra bit of insurance. The run scored on an infield single where relief pitcher Jamie Walker was slow to cover first base, but Baltimore went quietly in the ninth.

Pettitte (5-5) improved to 24-6 against the Orioles -- the most wins against Baltimore of any active pitcher -- and helped New York avoid a series sweep. Baltimore hasn't swept the Yankees in a three-game series at Camden Yards since 2005 and hasn't won the season series since 1997, but the O's are currently up 5-4 this year.

"You've got to do an awful lot of things right to come in and win three in a row," said Trembley. "We just didn't do enough things right to do it. We had some opportunities early and it just didn't happen. That's part of the game. You've got to tip your cap to Pettitte. He's pitched awfully well against us, it seems like forever. And that's just the way the game goes."


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