O's slam door on Rays

O's slam door on Rays
From left, Orioles players Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis celebrate Mora's grand slam in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
One hit, a grand slam by Melvin Mora in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, led to an anticlimactic 6-0 win for the Orioles and propelled them to a second consecutive series victory to start a season for the first time in 11 years.

Afterward, manager Dave Trembley doled out praise to just about everyone in an Orioles uniform.

To starter Jeremy Guthrie, who threw six scoreless innings and has advanced to 2-0 for the first time in his career.

To Gregg Zaun, the catcher who was behind the plate for the club's first shutout of 2009, something the Orioles accomplished just four times all last season.

To relievers Jamie Walker and Chris Ray, who kept the shutout intact while showing glimpses of past success.

And to his offense, spurred by three red-hot hitters at the top of the lineup.

"We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people tonight," Trembley said.

Mora's was the most obvious, but it was set up by Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, who are batting a combined .414 with 18 runs scored in five games.

"Melvin got the big hit, but the top of the lineup started it," Trembley said. "Roberts, kind of the igniter, got it going for us."

The early barrage came against Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann, who last April faced the Orioles in his big league debut and allowed just one run in six innings. It was a different story Saturday night on a cold evening in which the announced crowd was just 15,108.

Roberts hit Niemann's second pitch to deep right field for a ground-rule double. After Niemann plunked Jones in the back with a pitch, Markakis followed with another ground-rule double, to center, that scored Roberts and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Aubrey Huff walked to load the bases, and Mora cleared them when Niemann hung a 79 mph slider.

"You know how hard it is sometimes to drive in one run?" Mora said. "You knock in four in one shot, that's my week."

Guthrie didn't need much of a cushion. He relied on an effective changeup and lasted six strong innings for the second straight start.

"I think the changeup has been key for both games I have pitched thus far," Guthrie said. "It's a pitch I have a lot of confidence in right now as far as location, and it will help to keep hitters a little bit more off-balance throughout the course of the season."

Three relievers preserved the shutout: Matt Albers, who was sent to Triple-A Norfolk after the game, Walker and Ray.

Walker entered with two outs and two on in the seventh and struck out Akinori Iwamura to end the threat. He threw a scoreless eighth, and Ray pitched out of his own jam in the ninth to give the Orioles their first back-to-back opening series wins since 1998, when they beat the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers.

This time, though, the wins are against division foes, the New York Yankees and the Rays, who had beaten the Orioles in 12 straight games before this weekend.

"I am sure it is great for the fans and people that have followed this club for a long time," Trembley said. "It's made it fun for everybody to come to the ballpark here the first week of the season."