April 7, 2009
By David Driver
For the Tidings
Used with permission
BALTIMORE — Jeremy Guthrie ran over to his third baseman, Melvin Mora, and slapped his hand following the last out of the top of the fourth inning.
Mora had just made a diving catch of a line drive off the bat of Brett Gardner, the No. 9 hitter for the Yankees, to end another New York threat.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence the sun came out on a cloudy, rainy day just a few minutes before the 1997 Ashland High grad gave props to his teammate.
Whether a harmonic convergence or just good luck, Guthrie's spring fortunes changed dramatically here Monday afternoon on opening day in Baltimore.
Guthrie, who was hammered during spring training in sunny Florida, allowed three earned runs for the Orioles before he was lifted after six innings on a windy, chilly day in the Inner Harbor.
The Baltimore bullpen, after some shaky moments, held the lead as Guthrie got the win over the Yankees, 10-5, before 48,607 fans, the largest opening day crowd in Baltimore history. Guthrie, who walked three and struck out three, said the fan support was a pleasant sight.
"It was just a20huge support. It was a lot of fun. That was one of the most fun games I have ever pitched in," said Guthrie, who turns 30 on Wednesday. He threw 93 pitches, 59 for strikes.
The outing was even sweeter for Oriole fans, who have suffered through 11 straight losing seasons, since it came against the high-priced Yankees and free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.
While Sabathia signed a contract for more than $100 after last season, Guthrie took a cut in pay — he still makes below the Major League average — after he changed agents following the 2008 season.
The Yankee lefty allowed six runs and failed to strike out a batter for just the fifth start of his career. He left after 4 1-3 innings and woke up today with an ERA of 12.46.
"I knew we had a great approach coming in against CC," Guthrie said of his former Cleveland teammate. "If he is a hair off we can beat him."
Guthrie was the victim of a poor offense in many of his starts in 2008, when he was 10-12 with an ERA of 3.63. But the Orioles had 14 hits Monday, including a homer from new shortstop Cesar Izturis — his first since last May — while Brian Roberts and former Seattle minor league star Adam Jones combined for six hits and five runs at the top of the order.
"I am going to get used to that," Guthrie said of his offensive support.
In his last spring training start April 1 against the20Marlins, the Oregon native allowed 10 hits and eight runs in a 13-2 loss in Fort Lauderdale.
Jones told Guthrie in spring training: "You know what to do when the lights come on" to start regular-season play.
Guthrie ended spring training with an ERA of 9.68 for the Orioles and that did not count some rough outings for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
"I have done my best to stay positive," he said.
He seemed to do that here Monday.
"He came out ready," Oriole left fielder Luke Scott said of Guthrie. "He mixed the ball around against a very tough lineup. Tip your cap to Jeremy."
And Guthrie tipped his cap to his defense, which included a key play in the sixth.
The Orioles scored three runs in the fifth to give Guthrie a 6-1 lead going into the top of the sixth.
But the first pitch he threw was hit over the fence in right-center by Jorge Posada to make the score 6-2. Guthrie then gave up a walk to Robinson Cano and Xavier Nady followed with a double down the foul line in left to score Cano.
The next batter, Cody Ransom, struck out and Gardner popped out to left for the second out. That brought up Derek Jeter, who hit a groundball up the middle for a base hit. But Nady took a wide turn around third and was cut down on a throw from Oriole shortstop Izturis to Mora to end the threat.
"He made a great play," Guthrie said o
f Izturis. "He is a player that will be big for us all year. Izzy made some big plays."
Guthrie made his second straight opening day start for the Orioles. Last year he faced Tampa Bay, also at Camden Yards, and ended up with the loss against the eventual American League champions.
"I had luck on my side tonight," Guthrie said. "It was fun to be out there. Great crowd, great atmosphere."
Notes: Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware threw out the first pitch. The pitch was high. "¦ Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira, who grew up in nearby Severna Park, Md., was booed mightily by Oriole fans each time he came to the plate. He signed with the Yankees as a free agent prior to this season. "¦ Oriole Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. attended the game "¦ Former Mariner George Sherrill pitched a hitless ninth for the Orioles. He had 31 saves last year for the Birds.