Fast start, Guthrie end O's losing streak at 9

The Baltimore Sun

SAN DIEGO -- Jeremy Guthrie stepped out of the dugout in the first inning last night and resisted the urge to pinch himself. If this was a dream, he didn't want to wake up. Just go directly to the mound, with no sudden movements, and bask in a moment that didn't seem real.

The Orioles scored three runs before Guthrie threw a pitch. He had a lead. He had some offensive support. He had a chance to win without needing a shutout.

Guthrie wasn't taking any chances, though. He held the San Diego Padres scoreless until Russell Branyan led off the eighth with a home run, and the Orioles ended a nine-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory at Petco Park that included a possible injury to shortstop Miguel Tejada.

The Orioles (30-41) got only one hit after the first inning until scoring four times in the eighth on Melvin Mora's RBI single, a two-run triple by Jay Payton and Paul Bako's infield single. They were much sharper in the field and on the base paths, and they gave interim manager Dave Trembley his first win in the majors.

"I told the team the first day it's a privilege to be the manager of the club, and that's how it feels right now," said Trembley, who kept the lineup card and a ball as a souvenir. "Coming from where I've come from, it's more than special."

The most unfortunate moment came in the eighth, when reliever Doug Brocail hit Tejada on the left wrist. Tejada crumbled to the ground but got up quickly, stayed in the game and later scored. Freddie Bynum replaced him at shortstop in the bottom of the inning, putting Tejada's consecutive-games streak - the longest in the majors at 1,151 - in question for today.

X-rays were negative, but the Orioles sent him to the hospital for more tests.

"I feel like everything is fine, but I am worried," Tejada said. "I was real scared when that ball was coming toward my face, so I put up my hand. I think I'll play [today]. If it's not broken, I'll play."

Trembley broke out a unique lineup, batting Kevin Millar third for the first time this season. After inserting Corey Patterson in the second slot Tuesday night, he bumped up Nick Markakis last night and started Jay Payton in center field.

"We lost nine games in a row. I was just trying to put a lineup together where maybe it would break the ice a little bit," Trembley said.

"What I saw was guys taking a lot of pitches, working the counts, using the whole field, being patient at the plate. There was just a real good chemistry in the lineup."

Trembley referred to Millar as "my secret weapon," and it looked that way in the first. Millar had the second of three doubles for the Orioles in the inning, scoring Markakis, whose RBI single off Justin Germano provided a 1-0 lead.

Millar came home on Tejada's double, and he received an enthusiastic greeting from the Orioles dugout, the high-fives and broad smiles reminiscent of happier times - before the team lost 14 of 16 games.

Guthrie (4-1) must have been overwhelmed by the generosity. A lack of run and bullpen support has left him with six no-decisions in 10 starts, but he's posted a 1.64 ERA since joining the rotation. He allowed four hits and struck out nine last night in eight innings, and has surrendered one earned run or fewer in seven starts.

"If you talk to Jeremy, he's probably just happy as heck that he's pitching in the big leagues," Trembley said.

In eight outings since the beginning of May, Guthrie won only twice despite turning in a quality start on each occasion. The Orioles scored only 32 runs, had three blown saves and went into extra innings three times.

Guthrie struck out three of the first five batters he faced, freezing Mike Cameron with a 98 mph fastball leading off the second. He struck out the side in the fourth, setting down Josh Bard and Khalil Greene with his slider.

"The main thing was coming right out there and setting them down right away after we scored," Guthrie said. "It all started with that."

Trembley kept close tabs on Guthrie while managing at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Ottawa, and always came away impressed. As soon as the Cleveland Indians exposed Guthrie to waivers, Trembley and scout Dave Hollins contacted the Orioles and recommended that they sign him.

"What really attracted me to him was his work ethic," Trembley said. "I stayed at the Radisson Hotel in Annapolis and the visiting team hotel was [at] the Best Western next door. I used to get up for breakfast every day at 8 o'clock, and the day after he pitched, I see this guy out running the streets, and it was Guthrie. You don't get that very often from guys in the minor leagues."

Guthrie had only one ground ball out until the sixth inning, when Jose Cruz bounced to second. Adrian Gonzalez followed with a single down the right-field line, past a diving Millar. Markakis got to the ball quickly and threw out Gonzalez at second to end the inning.

The play enabled Guthrie to keep his pitch count at 81, and he made short work of the Padres in the seventh.

He wasn't dreaming. He had only put their bats to sleep.

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