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Orioles finally back Guthrie, rout Nationals, 8-3

Rap music blared in the Orioles' clubhouse, children scooted around wearing jerseys adorned with their father's name and number, and catcher Matt Wieters looked forward to dinner plans to celebrate his 25th birthday.

It was hard to tell who needed Saturday's 8-3 victory over the Washington Nationals more: hard-luck pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who had been 1-6 despite a sub-4.00 ERA, or an Orioles team reeling from four consecutive losses, including a beatdown by the Nationals (21-24) less than 24 hours earlier.

In front of an announced 33,107 at sun-drenched Camden Yards, Guthrie allowed two unearned runs over seven strong innings and outfielder Nolan Reimold ignited a breakout, 14-hit offensive performance with a two-run home run in the Orioles' four-run third inning.

"What happened last night?" joked Orioles manager Buck Showalter when asked about the importance of bouncing back from Friday's 17-5 loss in which the Nationals set a team record for runs and homers. "We're so quick to try to frame every game -- a game meant this and a game meant that. If you're looking for ways to judge the character of your team at this point, you probably haven't been watching anyway. It was a good win for us. We have to try to win [Sunday] and see if we can win the series. You can't dwell on it too long. Just like [Friday] night."

Ending an abysmal -- albeit brief -- stretch of pitching in which the Orioles (20-24) had given up 33 runs in 19 innings, Guthrie allowed just five hits and one walk to improve to 2-6 and secure his first victory since Opening Night, a span of eight starts.

Commanding his fastball, Guthrie pitched in the same manner he has for much of the season. The only difference was the Orioles actually scored some runs for him.

The eight runs the Orioles totaled doubled their previous high this season with Guthrie on the mound and broke a three-start stretch in which they hadn't scored a run with the right-hander in the game.

"You can't say enough about how well we were able to battle against a tough pitcher today," said Guthrie, who entered the start getting an average of 1.70 runs, the worst run support of any starter in the American League. "It feels good. I don't think I pitched with the lead in over a month or close to a month. So to see the team fight back right away, put some runs on the board, put the responsibility back on my shoulders to try to keep the momentum on our side -- we were able to do that and then break it open late."

First baseman Brandon Snyder's error on Laynce Nix's ground ball with two outs in the third inning brought home two runs, but Guthrie retired the next eight Nationals he faced. Trying to protect a two-run lead in the sixth, he issued a one-out walk to Nix and gave up a single to Jayson Werth. However, with Jim Johnson warming up, Guthrie threw a first-pitch changeup that Matt Stairs hit on the ground for an inning-ending double play.

"A pitcher like that, when he starts to get in a rhythm, he's definitely tough to beat," Nationals third baseman and former Oriole Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "He's been around for a while now, and he's got good stuff. I think as far as velocitywise, that's probably as good as I've seen him throw."

It appeared that Guthrie, who has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his nine starts, would be immersed in yet another pitchers' duel. Nationals lefty John Lannan (2-5) retired the first six Orioles on 15 total pitches.

However, the third inning was a different story. Mark Reynolds worked a leadoff walk, and Reimold, getting his first start after Friday's promotion, slammed Lannan's 3-2 fastball deep into the left-field seats to tie the game and break a 22-inning scoreless stretch with Guthrie on the mound.

Adam Jones engineered a two-out rally by dropping down a bunt single and scoring from first on Nick Markakis' single to left, which was bobbled by Nix.

"That kind of [energizes] guys and deflates the other team a bit, so that was huge," Reimold said.

Vladimir Guerrero followed with an RBI single to make it a 4-2 game, which is the way it stayed until the seventh inning. That's when Snyder and Robert Andino hit back-to-back doubles to give the Orioles a three-run lead and chase Lannan from the game.

Four straight singles off rookie Cole Kimball broke the game open and made for a rare comfortable victory for the Orioles at Camden Yards. Markakis got the first one, driving in a run. Guerrero followed with his second single, and Wieters and J.J. Hardy drove in runs.

Hardy's hit broke an 0-for-23 slump, a much-needed lift on a day when the Orioles broke from some recent discouraging trends.

"I think the guys came out focused today," Guthrie said. "From the start, we had tough at-bats against them. And, you know, there's been tough games, but we have a group of guys that are resilient and we've been knocked down a few times this year and gotten back up each time. So, I don't think anybody in the clubhouse anticipated anything different."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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