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. He would be the first to acknowledge that when given a multi-run lead early in the game, he's expected to put up zeros and preserve it.
However, it's a task the right-hander is struggling with. Ten days after letting a seven-run lead over the Boston Red Sox slip away, Guthrie contributed to a four-run advantage over the Texas Rangers going to waste Monday night. He allowed three runs but logged only five innings, and the Rangers completed the comeback by scoring three times in the sixth off Matt Albers to secure the 6-4 win before an announced crowd of 10,621, the second-smallest in Camden Yards history.
"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."
By no means does Guthrie deserve to shoulder all the blame in the team's latest loss to the Rangers, who took three of four in the series and became the second team this year to win a series against the Orioles (9-11). Asked to protect a one-run lead in the sixth inning, Albers instead allowed five of the seven hitters he faced to reach base, including Taylor Teagarden, who tied the game with a single, and David Murphy, who hit a two-run single with the bases loaded to give Texas its first lead.
"I just didn't make pitches when I needed to," said Albers, who allowed three hits and two walks and saw his ERA balloon to 7.71.
The Orioles had a 4-0 lead after the second inning against left-hander Matt Harrison but were shut down after that. Harrison retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced, including 16 straight. The Orioles had only three base runners after Brian Roberts' two-run single in the second inning, and two came in the ninth inning.
Rangers closer Frank Francisco hit Lou Montanez with two outs, and Gregg Zaun followed with a single. But Francisco struck out Robert Andino on a full count to earn his fifth save. Overall, Rangers pitchers retired 23 of the last 26 Orioles batters.
"We came out hot and got four runs right off the bat, and then it got tough," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said.
Guthrie, meanwhile, appeared to run out of steam in the middle innings, and he conceded that his 37-pitch first inning, which included 15 foul balls, took a toll.
"It definitely wore on me a little bit, but I got through it and had a couple of nice innings after it," he said. "I hit some spots and missed some spots, and either way the results seemed to be a foul ball."
Marlon Byrd had an RBI single in the fourth inning, and Michael Young connected for a two-run homer in the fifth, cutting the Orioles' lead to 4-3. Guthrie was done after the fifth 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 last three outings, having yielded 13 earned runs, 16 hits, including four home runs, and eight walks over his past 15 2/3 innings, and giving up two sizable leads.
"I don't think it had anything to do with him trying to protect the lead," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He was very aggressive. I thought his command was good, his tempo was good. He just had to work real hard to get outs."
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.