Guthrie shows new life in win over Twins
O's right-hander has commanding stuff in finale win
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeremy Guthrie stepped into the stopper role Wednesday, a job many analysts had expected him to fill for most of the season. Baltimore's Opening Day starter helped the Orioles rebound from a pair of one-run losses by pitching through the seventh inning and holding the Twins down in a 4-1 win.
And by doing so, Guthrie gave himself a shot in the arm. The right-hander allowed six hits -- just one for extra bases -- and recorded three perfect innings en route to his second straight victory. Guthrie (9-12) had won two straight starts on just two prior occasions this season, and the first time happened all the way back in April.
"He was fantastic and was doing everything right," said catcher Chad Moeller. "We were using curveballs, which is a pitch we normally don't use a lot with him. It was great in the bullpen and carried over. His tempo was fantastic. There was no rush to him today. He just seemed in command of everything and got a lot of fast swings out there."
Guthrie, who led Baltimore's staff in virtually every category last season, seemed like a man reborn. The former first-round Draft pick kept his fastball down and didn't walk anyone for the first time in 13 starts and for just the fourth time all season. Guthrie also didn't allow a home run for just the second time in 10 outings.
And with that result, Guthrie may have found a path to salvage his season. Guthrie has often seemed at a loss to explain his struggles, and he admitted Wednesday that he has to find a way to manage his expectations.
"Luckily, the ERA is so far away that I don't have to try to get that back," he said. "I've just conceded that it's probably going to be much much higher than I would've hoped for, but [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and I have talked about the opportunity that's still there to have a nice win total, to maybe help the team win 12 or 13 games. We talked about that a month ago, but just the idea that we're plugging along and there's still opportunity to win games. ... You can't get it all back, but you do the best you can with what's remaining and kind of make it a one-month season."
This time, he was rarely challenged. Guthrie's offense gave him a lead in the first inning, and he didn't allow a run until the fourth. That came on a gap double by Justin Morneau, and the Twins (63-64) didn't push another runner into scoring position until the seventh. Guthrie worked out of that jam and handed the ball to his bullpen.
And in a way, that was the most significant part of his evening. Although he wasn't really cognizant of it at the time, Guthrie pitched on a night when his bullpen was exhausted and his team desperately needed a win. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley noted both of those factors in his postgame address.
"We didn't have a long guy tonight," Trembley said. "I was not going to do it to [Mark] Hendrickson. It would've been his third day in a row pitching. We didn't want to use him at all. We needed Guthrie to go seven innings, get deep in the game, so we could have a chance to bounce back. It seemed like the guys played relaxed tonight."
Both Guthrie and Moeller credited shortstop Cesar Izturis for his flawless defense and for helping to control the tempo of the game. The shortstop made several difficult plays and had three inning-ending assists. And without Izturis behind him, Guthrie said that he wasn't sure whether the game would've had the same end result.
"Cesar played phenomenal," Guthrie said. "He shortened some innings today that could've been extended with hits and that was the whole purpose of bringing him in, an All-Star type Gold Glove shortstop to help us out. I think it's such a big difference to have that type of defense behind you. The past two years when the pitchers had struggled, I think too much has been put on them. Defense has the ability to really help us out.
"Tonight was a night that Cesar really dictated the tempo and what happened in the game even though it doesn't show up that much. They just show up as groundouts, but they were big, big plays."
Baltimore (52-75) scored twice in the first inning, thanks to a two-out single from Nolan Reimold and a throwing error by shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Felix Pie drove a solo home run off Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn in the fourth inning and scored all the way from first base in the sixth on a double by Moeller.
Moeller also walked twice and singled right after Pie's homer, reaching base four times for the first time all season. The former Twins player drove in two runs, which was one short of his season total heading into the game.
"I guess it's no secret I'm here for my defense. It's always good to help out," Moeller said. "They always say it's a bonus, but I don't buy it. If you don't do it often enough, they still kick you out. It's nice to be able to have a good game at the plate and it's even better for me to be able to do it here just because this is where I started."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.