The Orioles started the 2011 season on a good note with an outstanding performance from Jeremy Guthrie and timely hitting from Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy as they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on the road.
Guthrie was just fabulous tonight, pitching eight shutout innings on 94 pitches (67 for strikes). It was assumed that David Price would be the more talented pitcher on the field tonight, and while that may be true, it didn't show tonight. Guthrie retired the Rays in order in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh innings, and at one point retired thirteen straight.
In the second inning, Guts allowed a double to Dan Johnson with one out, but then struck out B.J. Upton looking and induced a ground out from Matt Joyce to end the inning. In the sixth Guthrie gave up a two out single to Ben Zobrist but then retired Johnny Damon to end the inning.
In the eighth inning it appearing Guts was beginning to tire as he gave up a leadoff double to B.J. Upton and walked Matt Joyce with one out. Fortunately for him he was able to pick off Upton and induce a rundown that resulted in Upton being tagged out by Matt Wieters after running into Hardy in the base path. Joe Maddon argued that Hardy interfered with Upton, but the umpire ruled that Upton caused the collision. Guts got out of the inning with a fly ball by John Jaso to Luke Scott in left field.
That would be it for Guthrie, who by all accounts had a wildly successful 2011 debut. His final line: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. Pretty great.
The O's offense had a tough task ahead of them in Price, but proved they were up to the task. In the second inning, Vladimir Guerrero got his first hit as an Oriole and the first Orioles' hit of 2011 with a single up the middle, but his teammates left him stranded. Price wouldn't be so lucky in the third inning as new Oriole Hardy doubled over the head of Upton and then scored on a single by Markakis. That gave the O's a one run lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
After retiring the Orioles in order in the fourth inning, Price again found himself in trouble in the fifth. With one out Matt Wieters hit a sharp ground ball that handcuffed Rays' SS Reid Brignac and bounced into center field. Hardy followed that with a walk, setting the stage for a Brian Roberts triple that scored two runs.
Now, maybe Roberts would have had a triple all along, but he did get some help from new Rays' LF Johnny Damon. Damon fell down trying to field the ball in the outfield, then attempted to flip it to teammate Upton to throw in but instead threw it past him. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty funny. Carl Crawford he ain't.
That made the score 3-0 in favor of the Orioles and with Roberts on third, Markakis hit a long fly ball to center that allowed Brian Bob to tag up and score easily.
Brian's triple was the last hit the O's would muster as they were retired in order in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. It would be enough, though.
With a four run lead, Buck Showalter turned to bullpen veteran Jim Johnson to close out the ninth inning. JJ was greeted rudely as the first pitch he threw Ben Zobrist was taken into the right field stands for a home run, but he settled down after that. He struck out Johnny Damon and Evan Longoria swinging and got Manny Ramirez to hit the first pitch he saw to the other J.J. at shortstop to end the game.
All in all it was a much better way to start the season than the Orioles gave us in 2010. Not many people (including me) thought the boys in orange and black had much of a chance against the tough lefty Price, but they proved us wrong. I hope they spend the entire season doing the same.