It's unclear whether a healthy Nolan Reimold or Felix Pie would have been able to run down Evan Longoria's liner in the left-center-field gap that was the key swing in another one-run victory by the Tampa Bay Rays over the Orioles on Wednesday night.
But Orioles manager Dave Trembley would have at least liked to have had the opportunity to find out. Trembley wanted keep Reimold and his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon off the turf at Tropicana Field, but those plans were scuttled when Pie aggravated a left rotator cuff strain while making a throw in Tuesday's season opener.
That loomed large when Longoria's double in the fifth inning off an otherwise sharp Jeremy Guthrie just got past Reimold's outstretched glove and scored two runs in the Rays' second consecutive 4-3 win over the Orioles in front of an announced 15,220.
"It was placed pretty well," said Reimold, who had surgery in September and has acknowledged that it will be a while before he's able to run at full strength. "It was like 10 feet out of my reach or so -- five or 10 feet, somewhere in there. It was just hit in one of those spots -- tough to get to."
Longoria added a solo homer in the eighth off Cla Meredith, who might not have been in the game if normal eighth-inning guy Jim Johnson weren't experiencing tightness in his right elbow.
Down 4-2 in the top of the ninth, the Orioles trimmed the deficit to one on Garrett Atkins' RBI double. However, Rays closer Rafael Soriano retired pinch hitter Ty Wigginton on a groundout and got Brian Roberts to fly out on the first pitch of the at-bat to preserve the victory.
Roberts, the leadoff man who makes the Orioles' offense go, went 0-for-5 for a second straight night and has stranded eight base runners in two games. The Orioles are 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position this season and have left 17ÃÂ|men on base.
On Wednesday night, they scored two first-inning runs off Matt Garza, the first coming on Miguel Tejada's bloop single and the second when usually sure-handed Rays first baseman Carlos Pena couldn't handle Reid Brignac's low throw on what should have been an inning-ending groundout by Matt Wieters.
Garza settled down for seven consecutive scoreless innings, allowing four hits and just one other Oriole to reach scoring position while striking out nine.
"We came up a little short," Trembley said. "We played great. We wanted a couple pitches back, we wanted a couple at-bats, maybe for hits to fall in. You compete like that, you do an awful lot of things right."
Trembley was extremely encouraged by Guthrie's outing. Relying on well-located fastballs and a slider that was better than at any point last season, Guthrie surrendered three earned runs on eight hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings.
"That's Guthrie of 2008 right there," Trembley said. "He pitched a great game. Located, pitched down, was aggressive with his pitches. You liked the way he pitched, and he'll win a lot of games if he continues to go out there like that."
Even as he compiled a 7.40 ERA this spring, Guthrie said he was pleased with the movement he was getting on his fastball, which was mostly absent last year, when he led the American League in losses (17) and home runs allowed (35). He also maintained that his confidence was high, and Wednesday's solid outing should only help in that area.
"The biggest thing is I didn't think it would happen any other way," Guthrie said. "In my last three outings, I felt really, really good about the things I've been able to work on and confident with my stuff. It's nice to be able to go out on the mound and feel like I have the weapons and the execution to get people out."
A solid outing could have easily been a spectacular one had Reimold been able to run down Longoria's double. It would have been a tough play for any left fielder, including the speedier Pie. Reimold certainly ran hard after it but came up a step short.
"I may not have that first step or whatever ÃÂ¡K for a little while, but I was feeling all right out there," he said.