Guthrie tosses gem, but Ray absent

Guthrie tosses gem, but Ray absent

OAKLAND -- Was it routine stiffness or something more? The Orioles were forced to go through Sunday's 2-0 win over Oakland without relief ace Chris Ray, who came down with discomfort in his pitching arm during pregame warmups.

Baltimore used the veteran tandem of Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker to get through the last two innings, prompting some obvious postgame questions. Ray held a brief closed-door meeting with interim manager Dave Trembley and assistant general manager Scott Proferock after the game and later appraised the media of his status.

"It's a little stiff," said the second-year closer, who will be re-evaluated next week. "Warming up, I just couldn't get it going. We've got a day off [Monday]. We'll give it some time and see how it feels on Tuesday."

Ray was last used in Friday night's 6-1 win and has strung together six straight scoreless outings after one of the most difficult months of his career. The right-hander went 1-3 with a 9.90 ERA in June, allowing runs in seven of his 10 appearances. Trembley said it's the first time Ray's complained of pain, so he did his best to protect him.

"When he told me this morning when he played catch that he was stiff, I told him he wasn't going to pitch today," said Trembley. "And we've got a day off tomorrow, so that's what we did."

The manager made a few bold moves, starting with lifting starter Jeremy Guthrie after seven scoreless innings and 95 pitches. Trembley said he sensed that Guthrie was tired -- a claim confirmed by the rookie after the game -- and felt comfortable handing the ball to Bradford in the eighth and Walker in the ninth. With those last two decisions, Trembley was playing the odds.

Bradford faced two left-handed hitters -- pinch-hitter Dan Johnson and leadoff man Travis Buck -- and pitched a perfect eighth inning. After Baltimore added a run, Walker came on to face one right-handed hitter and two lefties. The southpaw specialist needed 15 pitches to get three outs, but he wound up with his first save since July 2004.

"He said, 'Just be ready,' and I prepared," Walker said of Trembley. "The game dictates that. But I'm not a closer by no means. That's just the way it worked out today, I think. They are so left-handed oriented over there."

"The matchups were good with Bradford going first and then Walker," added Trembley. "It was going to be one or the other going into the eighth and ninth, depending on how the lineup fell for them."

Prior to that sequence of events, Ray had accounted for 16 of the team's 17 saves. He said it was strange to watch the ninth inning like everyone else, but ultimately the most prudent course of action.

"Walker did a great job," said Ray, who has four blown saves this season. "Obviously, you want to be in there for that situation, but instead of going out there and maybe hurting something, it's better to give it some time."

The end result marked the first time in Guthrie's young career that he's won two consecutive starts, and it helped mitigate a frustrating trend. Baltimore (44-53) has scored just 65 runs in his 14 starts, and the right-hander's won-loss record has suffered from three blown saves and four of his games going to extra innings.

Guthrie had a streak of 10 consecutive quality starts in May and June, but wound up with seven no-decisions. On Sunday, he said he wasn't surprised that it was the first time he's won in consecutive outings.

"I only have six wins. They've been few and far between," he said. "You go out every time and try to put up a zero, whether we have three runs or zero. That's usually my focus, no matter how many runs we put up."

The A's (46-52), who have lost 11 of their last 13 games, weren't able to push a runner to scoring position. Guthrie (6-3) gave up a hit in the first inning -- a baserunner who was subsequently erased on a steal attempt -- and one more in the third. After that, he held Oakland to two walks. Prior to that start, Guthrie had allowed home runs in six straight starts.

"I wanted to use my fastball. That was my focus, my thoughts going in," he said. "I was able to locate it very well. I didn't have great zip on it all the time [and] I got real tired in the sixth and the seventh. I had to battle through the seventh, getting behind guys. But the location helped me a lot, obviously."

The Orioles had a great scoring opportunity in the first inning, when they pushed runners to first-and-third with no outs. Oakland starter Dallas Braden buckled down and struck out three batters to end the threat.

Braden finally wilted in the sixth, when Brian Roberts drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. One out later, first baseman Kevin Millar hit a soft single to left field to score the game's first run. Braden (1-5) worked one more inning after that, and Baltimore added another run in the ninth.

"It was one of those days where you knew it's going to be a one- or two-run game," said Millar. "We were able to get a couple two-out hits and get a 'W.'"

"Guthrie backed us up and gave us a lift with the way he pitched, and our guys kept their focus," Trembley said. "I thought today was kind of a character test for us, especially with having so many opportunities last night and not getting two-out RBI hits. We felt we should've won the game last night, and guys came out today and got the two-out RBI hits."

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