Jeremy Guthrie received a warm reception from the crowd at Camden Yards when he took the mound Thursday for the first time here since he was traded away before last season.
Then the Kansas City Royals right-hander did his part to beat his former team, handing the Orioles a 6-2 defeat in front of an announced 23,282.
Guthrie, who was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter in 2008, ’09 and ’11, held them to two runs (one earned) on seven hits over six innings to snap the Orioles’ season-high four-game winning streak and allow the Royals to salvage the series finale.
The Orioles’ loss, combined with a New York Yankees win, put the Orioles percentage points behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East. Despite the defeat, the Orioles (21-14) still won their eighth series out of 11 this season as they head into a three-game series in Minnesota beginning Friday night.
Kansas City (18-13), which scored just three runs in each of the first two games of the series, hit three homers Thursday, including two off starter Freddy Garcia (0-1) in a four-run fourth inning.
"We scored two runs tonight,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Freddy gave us a chance to win. It was good to see. We had a little trouble keeping the ball in the park."
Guthrie, dealt to the Colorado Rockies before the 2012 season in a deal that brought Jason Hammel to Baltimore, pitched for the Orioles from 2007 to 2011 and averaged 13 losses on teams that averaged 95 defeats during that span. But he has found new life since being traded to Kansas City during last season.
Guthrie (5-0), who was coming off his first career shutout in his previous start, recorded his sixth quality start in seven outings this season.
"I didn't pay much attention to that part of it,” Showalter said of Guthrie’s outing. “We've kind of turned the page. Jeremy did some good things for us. I'm glad he's doing good things with his career and life. Jeremy had some good outings for us, had some times he was challenged, just like every pitcher does. That wasn't a point of emphasis for me.”
Guthrie, asked if beating the Orioles meant anything extra, apparently heard Showalter’s comments before talking to reporters after the game.
“I think someone else put it this way, we’ve turned the page,” he said.
The Orioles managed just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. On Guthrie’s final pitch of the night, he struck out Ryan Flaherty — who represented the tying run at the time — looking with a runner on second to end the sixth inning.
The Orioles – who had just two baserunners reach second base after Chris Davis’ solo homer in the fourth – were visibly frustrated with several strike calls by home plate umpire CB Bucknor, especially late in the game.
After the mild-mannered Flaherty struck out looking to end the sixth, he slammed his helmet and bat to the ground in frustration.
“He thought it was a strike, I didn’t,” Flaherty said. “But, obviously it doesn’t matter what I think, so he thought it was a strike, and that’s the way it was.”
Garcia, who took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning in Anaheim on Saturday in his first start with the Orioles, retired the first 10 hitters he faced Thursday, but he quickly yielded four runs in the fourth inning.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and first baseman Eric Hosmer each hit two-run homers in the inning, turning what first looked like a promising outing to a three-run deficit.
After shortstop Alcides Escobar reached on an infield hit, Gordon launched a 2-1 pitch onto the flag court in right field. Two batters later, after Billy Butler singled, Hosmer took a 2-0 pitch into the left-center seats.
“I was behind in the count to both hitters and I gave up two home runs,” Garcia said. “I was trying to do my best and tried to keep the guys in the game. … I made two mistakes and then I paid for it. Sometimes it happens. Its part of the game, and hopefully next time I’ll do better.”
Gordon’s homer, his sixth of the season, marked the first time in his career he’s homered in three straight games — with all coming against the Orioles. Hosmer’s snapped a homerless streak of 144 at-bats that dated back to last Sept. 11.
The 36-year-old Garcia, who went 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA with Triple-A Norfolk before being called up, needed just 32 pitches to get through the first three innings before enduring a 25-pitch fourth inning.
Still, Garcia made it through six innings, allowing four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk. He was pulled after 77 pitches (47 strikes) in favor of left-hander T.J. McFarland to open the seventh.
“He threw the ball well,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “A couple pitches up a little bit, but he threw the ball well. [He] mixed in his off-speed, threw the ball in and out. That one inning, as an offense, we've got to be able to try and pick up for that inning. We couldn't just quite get enough tonight.”
McFarland, who hadn’t pitched since May 1, yielded a solo homer to Mike Moustakas on his second pitch of the seventh, a 1-0 slider that Moustakas hit high off the right-field foul pole.
The Royals took a 6-2 lead in the eighth on Salvador Perez’s two-out seeing-eye single off right-hander Alex Burnett, who was making his Orioles debut after being recalled from Norfolk earlier in the day.
J.J. Hardy put the Orioles up 1-0 in the second inning on a one-out single that plated Adam Jones from second. Jones reached on a throwing error by Escobar to open the inning, then moved to second on a single by Wieters.
Hardy’s hit snapped Guthrie’s scoreless inning streak at 18.
Davis blasted a solo homer to into the center-field bleachers off Guthrie on a 1-2 pitch to open the fourth inning. It was Davis’ 10th homer of the season but his first since April 28.
The game began 31 minutes late because of a threat of inclement weather.