There are certain responsibilities that come with being a staff ace, and Jeremy Guthrie, though still relatively new to the role, has not shied away from any of them. So he'd be the first to acknowledge that when given a multi-run lead early in the game, he's expected to put up zeros and maintain it.
However, it's a task the right-hander is clearly struggling with. Ten days after letting his team's seven-run lead over the Boston Red Sox slip away, Guthrie contributed to wasting an early four-run advantage over the Texas Rangers on Monday night. He allowed three runs in five innings, and the Rangers completed the comeback by scoring three more in the sixth off Matt Albers to secure the 6-4 win before an announced 10,621, the second-smallest crowd in Camden Yards history.
It allowed the Rangers to take three of four in the series and dealt the Orioles (9-11) just their second series loss this season.
The Orioles took a 4-0 lead after the second inning, but were shut down after that by Rangers starter Matt Harrison, who retired 17 of the last 18 he faced, including 16 consecutive at one point. The Orioles had only three base-runners after Brian Roberts' two-run single in the second inning, and two came in the ninth inning.
In the ninth, Rangers closer Frank Francisco hit Lou Montanez with two outs and Gregg Zaun followed with a single. However, Francisco struck out Robert Andino on a full count to get his fifth save. Overall, 23 of the last 26 Orioles to bat were retired.
Guthrie, meanwhile, ran out of steam in the middle innings, perhaps the result of his 37-pitch first inning. Marlon Byrd started the Rangers' comeback with an RBI single in the fourth inning, and then Michael Young connected for a two-run homer in the fifth, cutting the Orioles' lead to 4-3.
Guthrie was done after five with his pitch count at 101. After compiling a 2.25 ERA while winning his first two starts, Guthrie has a 7.47 ERA over his past three outings, giving up 13 earned runs, 16 hits, including four home runs, and eight walks over his last 156 2/37 innings.
"My approach is always the same," Guthrie said. "When I'm down by five or up by four, I'm trying to put a zero up. It hasn't worked out in a couple of starts this year, where we got runs early in the game. But the idea is to keep the team close and hope for the best result. There's nothing I can necessarily change or do any better than what I've done, just hope for better results in the future."
Manager Dave Trembley said: "I just think tonight was a different his command wasn't off tonight. In Boston, his command wasn't as good. He was around the plate tonight. There were a lot of foul balls, a lot of two-strike foul balls. They fought him off. They fought some real good pitches off. I don't think it had anything to do with him trying to protect the lead. He was very aggressive. I thought his command was good, his tempo was good. He just had to work real hard to get outs."
In fairness to Guthrie, he left the game with a chance to win, but that was squandered quickly by Albers. The struggling right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Hank Blalock, a one-out walk to Chris Davis and then a game-tying single to Taylor Teagarden, who entered the game 1-for-15. Albers then issued a two-out walk to Ian Kinsler to load the bases before David Murphy hit a two-run single. Albers got just two outs, leaving his ERA at 7.71.
"We had the lead and I came in and I didn't hold it," Albers said. "I just didn't make pitches when I needed to. Obviously, they have a good lineup, but it comes down to executing your pitches."
Guthrie didn't give up a run in the first inning, but he also didn't set the stage for a long outing. He threw 10 pitches to Rangers leadoff man Kinsler, who ultimately flied out. The Rangers fouled off 15 pitches in the inning and got a two-out double from Young and a two-out walk from Andruw Jones. However, Guthrie retired Blalock on a groundout to end the inning.
The Orioles then scored in the bottom of the first on Aubrey Huff's line single that drove in Adam Jones. Jones reached on an infield single and moved to third on Nick Markakis' single, which extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
They scored three more times in the second, a rally that started with Luke Scott's leadoff walk and Montanez's double. Andino drove in Scott and notched his first Orioles RBI with a single to right field, and Roberts scored Andino and Montanez with a single to left-center.
Guthrie settled down somewhat and took a shutout into the fourth inning before Blalock's one-out double got things started for Texas. Byrd drove in Blalock with a single down the left-field line to cut the Orioles' lead to 4-1. Guthrie struck out Davis and Teagarden to end the inning, but his pitch count stood at 88.
He got two quick outs in the fifth before Murphy lined a single to right. Young then drove Guthrie's 0-1 fastball into the right-center seats, his sixth home run, to cut the Orioles' lead to 4-3.
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