By David Driver
For the Tidings, used with permission
BALTIMORE — Ashland's Jeremy Guthrie could have ripped his third baseman. Or he could have blasted his first baseman.
Instead he did neither.
What he did, after his corner infielders looked like Little Leaguers in the first inning, was shut down the high-powered Red Sox after giving up three runs in the first Tuesday night.
And the Oriole offense, which normally gives little support to Guthrie, nailed Red Sox ace Josh Beckett for four runs in the third inning as Baltimore beat Boston 5-4 before 38,768 fans at Camden Yards.
"The difference from last year is when we get behind we still feel like we have a chance to win," said Guthrie, an Ashland High graduate whose next start should come at home Sunday against Washington.
"You start with Guthrie. He kind of epitomized what we were about tonight," said Dave Trembley, the Orioles manager. "The guy is mentally tough. He really showed his grit after a rough start. It says something about our team."
Coco Crisp led off the game with a single to right. After Guthrie retired Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz lined a double down the left field line to advance Crisp to third.
Cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez, after shattering his bat on a foul ball, singled up the middle on a 3-2 pitch to drive in Crisp and send Ortiz to third.
Mike Lowell, the next hitter, hit a grounder to third that was misplayed by Aubrey Huff as Ortiz scored to make it 2-0.
Guthrie retired Kevin Youkilis on a flyball to center but Oriole first baseman Kevin Millar made an error on a routine grounder off the bat of J.D. Drew to allow Ramirez to score the third run. Guthrie fanned Jason Varitek to end the inning.
"It was tough. It was one of the toughest situations I have been," Guthrie said of the first inning.
The Orioles improved to 20-19 while the Red Sox, who began the day with the most wins in baseball, fell to 24-18. Guthrie is now 2-3 with an ERA of 4.18 this season. He allowed eight hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings Tuesday.
"It's huge," Guthrie said of the win. "Boston has done a nice job in this ballpark."
Boston began the series with a record of 27-9 against the Orioles since the start of the 2006 season. Boston also entered the game with a team batting average of .294, the best mark in the Majors by 10 points over Atlanta. Six of the nine hitters in the starting lineup began the night with an average better than .300.
Boston starter Josh Beckett, the Most Valuable Player in the 2007 World Series for the champion Red Sox, allowed a season-high 11 hits and five earned runs in 5 2-3 innings. He took the loss and fell to 4-3 with an ERA of 4.21.
"Is this team going to crack? It's not," Trembley said. "We were ready. The guys were ready" to face Beckett.
Guthrie left in the top of the seventh, with the Orioles ahead 5-3, after giving up singles to Sean Casey and Pedroia to start the inning. It was his sixth quality start in nine outings this season.
"I thought Guthrie was our best option to start the seventh, so he went back out," Trembley said.
Jamie Walker, a lefty, came in to face left-handed hitter Ortiz and gave up a walk. Trembley brought in righty Jim Johnson to face Ramirez, who fouled off several two-strike pitches before he grounded into a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play.
Johnson then retired Lowell on a fly to left to get out of the bases loaded, no-out jam and preserve the lead for Guthrie.
"He didn't give in," Guthrie said of Johnson, who started the season in the minor leagues. "He executed every one of his pitches."
The Red Sox scored a run in the eighth to pull within 5-4 but former Mariner George Sherrill got his 14th save for the Orioles when he retired Ortiz (who was ejected for arguing strike three), Ramirez and Lowell in the ninth.
Jay Payton's two-out single in the second drove in Luke Scott to cut the Boston lead to 3-1.
Millar drove in a run in the third to make it 3-2 and Scott followed with a three-run homer to right to give the Orioles a 5-3 lead against Beckett.
Alex Cora's one-out RBI single pulled Boston to within 5-4 in the eighth off Johnson. The Orioles called for closer Sherrill, who retired Sean Casey on a liner to left. Pedroia then grounded out to first to end the threat.
Guthrie entered Tuesday's game with a record of 1-3 and an ERA of 4.32 in 50 innings of work. His first win came May 2 at Los Angeles when he went seven innings and allowed three hits and two runs in a 3-2 decision against the Angels.
Prior to Tuesday, the Orioles were 3-5 in games started by Guthrie. In his three losses the Birds scored just five runs. Guthrie's last start against Boston came on Sept. 9 when he allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings. His opponent in that game was Beckett.
On May 13, 2007 — exactly one year earlier — Guthrie took a shutout into the ninth inning against the Red Sox in Boston. He ended up allowing just one unearned run and three hits in 8 1-3 innings as the Oriole bullpen blew Guthrie's lead and the game.