Tough luck for Guthrie in loss to Sox
Huff's three RBIs not enough to back righty's quality start
BALTIMORE -- Jeremy Guthrie was the ace Baltimore wanted and needed him to be for seven innings on Monday night. Unfortunately for the Orioles, that performance included a second inning in which the right-hander allowed two long solo home runs to Jason Bay and Jason Varitek.
The two homers in the inning propelled the league's best offense to score four more -- two in the eighth and two in the ninth -- as the Orioles dropped the opener of their three-game series with the Red Sox, 6-3.
"Probably the biggest struggle I've had all season with my stuff," Guthrie said of his outing. "My fastball command was not there, I walked a lot of guys. [It] might have been the toughest outing of the season for me as far as laboring. I had to work hard to get through five and get a couple more."
On a day where 40 percent of the Orioles' rotation was relegated to the bullpen, a strong performance out of Guthrie was sorely needed, both physically and mentally. Overall, Guthrie delivered, but it was the two blemishes in the second inning that haunted the right-hander.
"With those home runs early in the game, the hitters were taking their swings," Guthrie said, noting that he did go to his changeup and slider more often after the homers. "I tried to make a couple adjustments there, but unfortunately, I was behind a lot more after that."
Guthrie (10-9) finished with seven innings, allowing five hits and five walks, striking out four, but he was once again the victim of poor run support from his teammates. Guthrie had been the victor in his four previous starts, allowing just one run per game, but several times this season he has found himself on the wrong side of offensive droughts. In the nine games Guthrie has been tagged with a loss this season, the Orioles (60-64) have scored a total of 14 runs.
The task of putting up runs was unequivocally harder with Red Sox lefty John Lester dealing on the mound for seven innings. Lester (12-4) allowed just four hits and walked one, striking out five. The only Oriole who could get to the southpaw was designated hitter Aubrey Huff.
"Both him and Guthrie pitched pretty much with their fastball," said manager Dave Trembley. "What Lester does is he works very fast -- his tempo is very quick. He cuts his fastball in on right-handed hitters, he keeps the ball down. ... The third time around, I thought we started to make some progress against him, but he's pitched well against us, he really has."
Lester has now allowed just eight earned runs in 27 innings against the Orioles this season.
Huff, however, wasn't fooled by the left-hander and was able to cut the Red Sox's two-run advantage in half via his 27th homer of the season in the fourth, a solo shot to center field. And Huff was able to bring the Orioles within one again in the eighth, when he knocked two more runs in with a double to left. This time, though, it was against Boston's closer, Jonathan Papelbon, who was in for the four-out save.
"I got into a hitter's count, 2-0, and just guessed and got one to hit," Huff said of the homer. "It was pretty lucky, he was working us pretty good tonight."
Guthrie and Lester were both finished after seven, and for the Orioles, that was where this game was lost. Opting to go to Rocky Cherry in the eighth, Trembley watched as the Red Sox (72-53) cushioned their 2-1 lead when Bay added his second homer of the game, this time a two-run shot, to deep center field.
In the ninth, reliever Jim Johnson allowed a two-run double to David Ortiz.
"What I was doing is I was staying off of [closer George] Sherrill today," Trembley explained. "We went out at 4:20 p.m. ET to play catch, [and] Sherrill was stiff. He couldn't get loose, so I bumped everybody else up."
The left shoulder stiffness was news to the manager, and Trembley opted to keep Sherill out of the game, rather than risk injury to his All-Star closer. Sherrill's last outing was Friday night in Detroit, where he threw 16 pitches.
"We've been coming back all year long, so we're expecting one of those games," Huff said. "But obviously, that's one of the better teams in the American League East -- and the American League for that matter. They've got a great bullpen, and Lester gave them a great start tonight."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.