Mora-Guthrie show brings O's to 4-1
Third baseman hits grand slam; starter goes six scoreless
BALTIMORE -- The first inning was an epic, the rest an anticlimax.
Baltimore put its first six hitters on base Saturday and took control on a Melvin Mora grand slam before going quiet for the duration of the game. The Orioles got four hits in the first inning and five more all night, and the 6-0 victory over Tampa Bay marked the first time since 1998 that they've won their first two series.
Back then, Baltimore was coming off a trip to the postseason and took five games out of six against Kansas City and Detroit. This time, the Orioles are trying to erase the specter of 11 straight losing seasons, and year-opening victories against the Yankees and the defending American League champions may boost their confidence.
"Well, in 1998 I was managing in the [Double-A] Southern League, riding the buses," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley of the accomplishment. "I'm sure it's great for the fans and the people that have followed this club for a long time. It's made it fun for everybody to come to the ballpark here the first week of the season."
"The Orioles have never had a problem with hitting," added Mora, the team's longest-serving member. "The Orioles' problem in the past has been pitching. Now, they've been able to put it together, and that's why we've been able to win two series against Tampa Bay and the Yankees. It's because of pitching."
Baltimore had a similar run in 2008, when it split the first series and then reeled off five straight victories. And the Orioles rode that momentum, finishing April with a 15-12 record. Prior to Saturday, Baltimore hadn't won a series against Tampa Bay since August 2007 and can equal last year's victory total with one more win.
The Orioles (4-1) were trouble from the beginning Saturday, when they got a leadoff double from Brian Roberts and a hit batsman shortly thereafter. Nick Markakis pushed one run home with a sacrifice fly, and after Jeff Niemann (0-1) walked cleanup man Aubrey Huff, Mora cleared the bases with a homer to left-center field.
Mora, Baltimore's third baseman, hadn't hit a grand slam since 2005. The Orioles didn't get more than one hit in any inning after the first, but after Mora's blast, they already had more than enough offense.
"You know how hard it is sometimes to drive in one run," Mora said. "You knock in four in one shot, that's my week."
Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie was the beneficiary of that support and was rarely challenged. The right-hander didn't allow a hit until the third inning and wound up stranding runners at second and third. Tampa Bay (2-3) got two straight hits to start the fourth, but Guthrie (2-0) retired the side on two popups and a strikeout.
"Our offense is going to come and play every single night and it is a great benefit to us pitchers," said Guthrie, who has earned two successive victories to start a season for the first time in his brief career. "It's very nice to come back out and put a zero up afterwards and keep the momentum on our side."
It's also validation for Baltimore's Opening Day starter, who had a rough Spring Training and admitted that there was cause for concern after his final exhibition game. The right-hander has turned things around when it matters most, though, and Trembley said that he didn't expect anything less from his staff ace.
"I thought I went on record as saying there was nothing bothering me," said Trembley. "I had all the confidence in the world in Guthrie before Opening Day. Everybody was asking me about Guthrie and the first question I asked him was, 'Are you healthy?' When he said he was healthy, I said, 'That's good enough for me.'
"I've known him for a very long time. Anytime you don't succeed, the thing that creeps into your mind is confidence. I don't think that's ever been a concern of Jeremy Guthrie because of the way he works."
Guthrie worked through six innings like his first outing, and no other Baltimore starter has managed to last that long. The Orioles got a key out from situational southpaw Jamie Walker in the seventh and quietly locked down the eighth and ninth. Baltimore has won the first two games in each of its first two series.
"It's a real nice test for this ballclub," said catcher Gregg Zaun. "Winning series is tremendous, but we've got a second opportunity to sweep a ballclub in two tries. Hopefully we'll show up tomorrow and put the finishing touches on it. There's going to be times when we'll look back at some of the opportunities we missed. I'm happy with the series win but I'll be a lot more happy if we sweep and win tomorrow's ball game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.