MINNEAPOLIS — Pitching on 10 days' rest after skipping his last start because of shoulder stiffness, Jeremy Guthrie escaped some early jams and settled down to lead the Orioles to their third straight win, a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
The Orioles (50-77) clinched their first road series victory since mid-May and gave themselves a shot at their first four-game sweep of the 2011 season if they win today at Target Field.
The victory came on a night that was particularly emotional for the Orioles organization as club sources confirmed that former pitching great, ex-executive vice president and current MASN broadcaster Mike Flanagan was found dead at his home in Sparks. He was 59.
Guthrie wears the uniform No. 46 that Flanagan, a former Cy Young Award winner, made famous in Baltimore. Guthrie also was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in 2007 when Flanagan was the club's head of baseball operations, a post he held until Andy MacPhail replaced him later that year.
"I have a strong connection with him," Guthrie said of Flanagan. "I think since the day I was given the number 46, I had thousands of people tell me that was the number of their favorite pitcher for the Orioles when they were growing up. So from Day One, I think I have been reminded of the legacy and the work Mike did, not only as a player, but as a member of the community in Baltimore. It has always been special, and now it takes on even a new level. He is not going to be forgotten soon, that's for sure."
Guthrie's strong effort allowed him to avoid tying his personal record with 17losses in a season.
Shaking off rust, Guthrie (6-16) struggled initially on Wednesday and then dominated the Twins (55-74). He allowed just one run, an RBI double by Justin Morneau in the third inning. He lasted seven innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out five.
Michael Gonzalez and Jim Johnson threw scoreless innings to hand Guthrie the win, his first since July 29. Gonzalez struck out the side in his one inning of relief and now has fanned seven consecutive batters. He has not allowed a run in 12 straight appearances.
It was the second time this year that the Orioles have had consecutive starts of seven innings or more -- Alfredo Simon threw eight on Tuesday -- and it was the third straight night in which the Orioles allowed the Twins just one run.
The road series win was the Orioles' first since beating the Tampa Bay Rays twice in a three-game series May 13-15. It was their first series victory since beating the Cincinnati Reds in two of three games at Camden Yards on June 24-26.
Guthrie got into trouble in the first inning when Trevor Plouffe hit a triple to center that Adam Jones couldn't run down. With two outs, he walked Justin Morneau and then hit Michael Cuddyer with a pitch to load the bases. Cuddyer had to leave the game with a left wrist injury. Initial X-rays were negative, but he'll be examined again today.
Guthrie escaped the damage when Ryan Adams made a great diving stop of a smash by Jim Thome and threw to first for the inning-ending out.
The Orioles' first threat came in the second against Twins starter Kevin Slowey. With one out, Slowey plunked Mark Reynolds in the side with a pitch, and then Robert Andino singled. But Jake Fox, who was inserted into the lineup because Vladimir Guerrero was scratched with a bruised left wrist, hit into a double play.
It was Fox's first at-bat since May 27 at Oakland. Fox was recalled Tuesday.
Reynolds apparently wasn't affected by the plunking. In his next at-bat against Slowey, he led off the five-run fifth by crushing a full-count pitch 386 feet to left for his team-leading 28th homer. That tied the game at 1-1.
The Orioles continued to hammer Slowey in the inning. With one out, Fox singled, Nolan Reimold brought him home with an RBI triple, and Ryan Adams made it 3-1 with an RBI double. A single by J.J. Hardy and a walk to Nick Markakis loaded the bases, and the ninth batter of the inning, Matt Wieters, hit a two-run double that chased Slowey (0-2).
The Orioles scored once more in the ninth when Hardy raced home on Glen Perkins' wild pitch.
Heading into today, the Orioles have outscored the Twins 18-3 in the series while improving to 19-18 against the American League Central this season.