It was far from Jeremy Guthrie’s best performance in a 7-5 win to give the Orioles their first series win since June 6-8.
But the bats owed him one.
Guthrie pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs and six hits while uncharacteristically walking four batters in an afternoon in which deep counts caught up with him, forcing an early exit against the Cincinnati Reds. However, five runs in the first four innings and two late insurance runs proved to be enough despite eight walks by Baltimore pitching.
Receiving the ninth-worst run support in the American League entering Sunday, Guthrie was grateful for the extra hand in securing his third win of the season despite a very respectable 3.93 earned run average in 16 starts. It marked the first time since May 26 that Guthrie had received five or more runs and just the fifth time all season.
“Winning three games in three months, it’s frustrating,” said Guthrie, who improved his record to 3-9. “I want to be better; I want to have better results. At times, momentum seems to swing against the Orioles, so it’s nice to have held on and won this game. It’s important for the team.”
Though not his sharpest outing, Guthrie’s stuff removed any shred of doubt that might have lingered after straining his back two starts ago in Toronto. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and struck out five Cincinnati hitters despite giving up his 13th home run of the year to Brandon Phillips in the fifth inning.
Racking brains over Reynolds
No Oriole in recent memory has sparked more debate — or created more frustration — than third baseman Mark Reynolds.
Despite raising his batting average from .190 to .227, clubbing seven home runs, and walking 20 times in the month of June, Reynolds’ defense continues to suffer after committing two more errors on Sunday, giving him 18 for the year. Manager Buck Showalter is preaching patience with Reynold’s glove and arm, but the miscues haven’t yet affected his performance at the plate.
“I can’t think that way,” Reynolds said. “I have struggled over there at third base, it’s no secret. Just have to stay focused and not carry my at-bats into the field with me. Just keep going out there and making all the routine plays.”
Casual observers cringe at the low average and the high strikeout numbers (78 in 242 at-bats), but Reynolds’ .819 OPS is better than any regular in the lineup not named J.J. Hardy (.907) or Adam Jones (.823). His .356 on-base percentage makes him a strong candidate to be moved higher in the batting order if Showalter wants to maximize his return.
Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee were brought to Baltimore to be run producers for the middle of the order, but Reynolds has done a far better job than either veteran if you can look past the unconventional numbers.
Unfortunately, the glove has overshadowed what he’s been doing at the plate.
“I am working every day with [third base coach Willie Randolph] at it, trying to get better,” Reynolds said. “It’s just one of those things I can’t really explain. Hopefully, I can be more consistent in the future and keep getting better.”
Markakis on the rise
Following a three-hit afternoon in which he drove in two runs, Nick Markakis is riding a 16-game hitting streak that includes eight multi-hit games. He’s elevated his average from .236 to .277 over the 16 games in what many are hoping is a sign of better things to come for the struggling right fielder.
“He’s letting the ball travel, getting deep,” Showalter said. “He’s making them get him out. He’s not getting himself out as much, and he’s taking what they give him. Nick’s not going to sneak up on anybody. Everybody in baseball knows what kind of hitter he is, and they’re pitching him tough. Also, some of the guys around him swinging the bat better with J.J. and Jonesy and D-Lee coming on have made the focus less on him.”
Markakis has recently been choking up about an inch on the bat, with the knob noticeably taped. His 14 extra-base hits are still far below his yearly average of over 60 over the first five seasons of his career, but a homer on Saturday and three hits Sunday are encouraging to see as the All-Star Break approaches.