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04/08/10 12:36 AM ET

Guthrie starts season strong despite loss

Rigthy allows three runs, strikes out six in 6 1/3 innings in debut

ST PETERSBURG -- The ball, by Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold's estimates, eluded him by a margin of 5-10 feet, hitting the Budweiser advertisement in left-center field and scoring a pair of Rays runs, including the go-ahead tally in Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over Baltimore in front of a crowd of 15,220 Wednesday night.

To his credit, Reimold won't make any excuses, although by the Orioles' original plans, he had no business testing his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon on Tropicana Field's artificial turf. At least, not yet. But Opening Day starter Felix Pie hurt his left shoulder throwing to the plate in Tuesday's loss, and manager Dave Trembley was forced to move up Reimold's season debut.

"I may not have that first step or whatever, I don't know, for a little while," Reimold admitted. "But I was feeling all right out there."

Could Evan Longoria's double have been a fifth-inning-ending out with a healthy Reimold or Pie? It was a question that loomed large in a loss filled with a stagnant offense and a quality start from Jeremy Guthrie that went for naught as the Orioles dropped their second straight game.

"The story for us is the way Guthrie pitched," Trembley said. "That's Guthrie of 2008 right there. He pitched a great game. Located, pitched down, was aggressive with his pitches. You liked the way he pitched, and he'll win a lot of games if he continues to go out there like that."

Coming off a dismal 2009 and a camp that raised concerns early, Guthrie set the tone from the get-go, retiring the first four batters he faced. Using a slider that the right-hander admitted was better than at any point last year, Guthrie kept the Rays off the scoreboard until running into a snag in the fourth inning. In that frame, Guthrie yielded a pair of leadoff singles and a two-out RBI to B.J. Upton, but struck out Kelly Shoppach -- the second of three punchouts dealt to the Rays catcher -- to leave the bases loaded and with minimal damage.

"I felt like it was really important [to have a good first start], but the biggest thing is I didn't think it would happen any other way," Guthrie said. "In my last three outings [this spring], I felt really, really good about the things I've been able to work on and confident with my stuff. And it's nice to be able to go out on the mound and feel like I have the weapons and the execution to get people out."

Guthrie was tagged for two more scores in the fifth, courtesy of Longoria's gapper, and exited after allowing three earned runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking two.

"I fully expected when he started the season he'd be ready to go; he'd straighten himself out," Trembley said, noting Guthrie's improved arm angle. "I was very encouraged by the way he pitched at the end of Spring Training and I think the proof was in the pudding [Wednesday]."

But as good as Guthrie was, Rays starter Matt Garza was better. The right-hander struck out nine Orioles and retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced in a dominant eight-inning performance. The Orioles had just two hits with runners in scoring position all night, and recorded one multi-hit inning off Garza, which was the first inning.

Baltimore scored twice in the opening frame, parlaying a pair of singles, a walk and Carlos Pena's error into a 2-0 lead. Red-hot Adam Jones had his fourth hit in two games, while Miguel Tejada provided the RBI.

"He's got great stuff," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said of Garza. "He's got a lot of determination on the mound."

With setup man Jim Johnson not available due to tightness in his right arm, Trembley opted to go with Cla Meredith for the final two outs of the eighth inning. Longoria sent a 1-0 offering from the sidearmer over the left-field wall for an insurance run that would prove to be the difference.

Wieters had a leadoff single in the ninth -- his second hit of the game -- and scored on Garrett Atkins' one-out double to bring the Orioles within a run. Pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton moved Pie, running for Atkins, to third with a groundout, but Brian Roberts ended the game on a flyout to end any hope of a rally.

"We wanted a couple pitches back, we wanted a couple at-bats, maybe for hits to fall in," Trembley said.

"We came up a little short."

Unfortunately for the Orioles, it was a common theme in Wednesday's loss.

"I was placed pretty well," Reimold said in regards to Longoria's double. "It was just hit in one of those spots, tough to get to."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.