If you are a fan of pitchers' duels, tonight was your kind of game. Starters Jeremy Guthrie and Brett Cecil battled each other pitch for pitch in a game that featured just one earned run. Both pitchers kept the opposing offense off balance, but ultimately, Guthrie prevailed.
After striking out Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy to start the game, Cecil gave up back-to-back singles to Nick Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero. He kept any runs from scoring by inducing a ground ball from Adam Jones for the third out, and for the next four innings the Orioles had exactly one base runner thanks to another single by Markakis in the fourth.
As good as Cecil was, so was Guthrie. Guts walked Eric Thames in the first inning and gave up a double to Adam Lind in the second, then faced just three batters each in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. In two of those innings he allowed a base runner (one single, one walk) but they were both erased on double plays.
The first run of the game scored in the sixth inning, and because of an error by second baseman Kelly Johnson, it was unearned. After Andino lead off with a single, Hardy hit a ground ball to Yunel Escobar at shorstop. Escobar threw to second to force Andino, but Johnson threw the ball into the stands instead of to his first baseman. That put Hardy on second, where he scored on a single from Guerrero.
Guthrie pitched around a walk and a single in the seventh inning, striking out Kelly Johnson to end the inning and his night on the mound. Guts' final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Other than the walks, quite a good night for Guthrie.
Cecil stayed in the game longer than his dueling counterpart, but it turned out to be one inning too many. Ryan Adams lead off with a single, then moved to second base on a bunt by Andino. Hardy hit a fly ball to shallow left and Adams had to hold up at second to make sure it didn't get caught. When it bounced in front of Jose Bautista in right field for a single, he scampered to third base. With first and third and just one out, Markakis hit a ground ball that looked like a sure double play. Nicky hustled down the line though and (maybe) beat the throw. It was a very close call. Adams scored to make the score 2-0, and Cecil's night was finished. All in all a fine effort, just not good enough on this night.
Pedro Strop relieved Guthrie and after retiring the first batter, Strop got to see first hand that vaunted Orioles defense. Mark Teahan hit a ground ball that first baseman Mark Reynolds had to come in to play. Strop ran over to cover first and Reynolds threw the ball past him for an error. Sorry, Pedro! That's what happens sometimes in Birdland. Strop responded by walking the next batter, Escobar, but got Thames to GIDP to end the inning.
Since closer Kevin Gregg had pitched in both extra-inning wins against the Yankees, tonight Buck Showalter called on Jim Johnson to finish the game. JJ, who has had trouble in the ninth inning in the past, walked Bautista but then got three consecutive ground outs to end the game. In his postgame interview with MASN, JJ was asked if he pitched around Bautista in the 9th. He awesome replied, "Actually I was trying to make Kevin feel comfortable by walking the leadoff guy." Zing!
And with that the O's have won their third consecutive game. Tomorrow they'll try to make it four, with Rick VandenHurk on the mound for his first start of 2011. He'll be opposed by Henderson Alvarez, the rookie with two last names who happened to shut down the Orioles the last time they faced him.