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O's don't slow their roll

The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There were several times last night when the Orioles' biggest surprise this season looked like he could unravel. Pitching coach Leo Mazzone sensed one of them in the fifth inning with the Orioles holding a tenuous one-run lead over the Kansas City Royals.

Jeremy Guthrie had already walked leadoff hitter John Buck on five pitches. He struck out Alex Gordon, then quickly allowed a single to Ryan Shealy that prompted Mazzone's visit. The pitching coach delivered his message and then gave Guthrie a slap on the arm before retreating to the dugout.

Guthrie needed just two pitches to get out of the jam, inducing Angel Berroa to hit into an inning-ending double play. He didn't allow another base runner for his final two innings as the Orioles parlayed another effective start by the emerging rookie right-hander and an opportunistic offense into a 6-2 victory before an announced crowd of 13,556 at Kauffman Stadium.

It was the fourth straight victory for the Orioles (25-27), who will go for the series sweep tonight behind ace Erik Bedard. During the winning streak, the Orioles have outscored their opponent 31-10.

"Right now, it is working," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Guthrie improved to 3-1, allowing two earned runs and three hits over seven innings while enduring command problems throughout the outing. It was the fourth straight start that Guthrie has pitched at least seven innings.

In five starts since joining the rotation when Adam Loewen and Jaret Wright went to the disabled list, Guthrie, whom the Orioles picked up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, has allowed just seven earned runs in 35 1/3 innings.

"I love this kid," said third baseman Melvin Mora. "In spring training, I kept asking Mazzone, 'Is this guy going to make the team?' Finally the last time I asked Mazzone, [he said] of course, he is going to make the team, because his ERA was zero-point-something. I didn't know he throws that hard. I think the Baltimore Orioles are lucky to have these guys, [Brian] Burres and Guthrie. Those two guys are going to do some damage in the big leagues because they know how to pitch."

Guthrie allowed a bases-empty home run to Mark Teahan in the first, but the Orioles scored two runs in the second and never trailed again. Kevin Millar tied the game with a bases-empty home run, his sixth of the season.

Ramon Hernandez had two hits and two RBIs, and Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Mora had two hits apiece as the offense continued its resurgence.

"When everybody is hitting like that, nobody wants to be the odd man out and they kind of keep feeding off each other," Perlozzo said. "Hopefully that continues for a little while."

The Orioles broke the game open in the sixth with three runs to take a four-run lead and knock Kansas City's erratic starter Jorge De La Rosa out of the game.

In the inning, Millar drew a leadoff walk and then advanced to third on Mora's double to right-center field. Royals manager Buddy Bell brought in left-handed reliever Jimmy Gobble to face Hernandez, who quickly fell behind.

But Hernandez continued his clutch hitting by hitting a single to left to score Millar. Mora initially stopped at third, but he took off for home when third baseman Gordon bobbled the relay throw. Gordon recovered quickly and Mora would have been out at home, but his slide jarred the ball loose from catcher Buck.

"I was just expecting anything," said Mora, who acknowledged that third base coach Juan Samuel pointed out that it was a risky decision with no outs. "I was just preparing myself for anything that happened. I'm always looking for the extra base. When I saw the ball cross his legs, I know I had a pretty good chance to score. I know there was nobody out, but that was the reaction. I reacted to the ball."

Guthrie kept the lead there, tossing perfect sixth and seventh innings. Chad Bradford and Chris Ray also tossed scoreless frames as the Royals, who held a hitters-only meeting before the game, watched their final 13 hitters get retired after Shealy's single in the fifth that led to Mazzone's visit.

"Leo came out and I had to adjust," Guthrie said. "I had two different focuses and I was unable to get on track. We had a few words and he was able to settle me down and focus. He was able to help me throw a little more strikes and keep the ball down.

"Obviously, I was missing up and I was throwing breaking balls down. I was up and down and all over the place except where I needed to be. He gave me more focus. That helped."

Perlozzo said it was nice to see his rookie pitcher battle, even though his command wasn't there.

"He obviously wasn't his best, but he persevered," Perlozzo said. "There were a couple of innings he came in and he just couldn't get in sync, it seemed like. But he went out and pitched. That's the sign of a good guy when you scuffle through it. He was mentally exhausted trying to get back in gear. When he was done, he was done."

And so were the Royals.

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