In this case, part of Guthrie's problem was the aggressive nature of the road team's batting order. The Rangers fouled off 15 balls in the first inning and forced Guthrie to throw 37 pitches, putting him in a difficult position. Guthrie managed to rebound, but he was sapped well ahead of schedule and done after five innings.
"You do what you can do," said Guthrie of his start. "After two innings, I had less than the amount of pitches I had after two innings of the last game. I was able to go six and work into the seventh in the last game. You can't put limitations on yourself and what's going to happen because of three outs in the first. They fouled off pitches. I hit some spots and missed some spots and either way, the results seemed to be a foul ball."
And when it wasn't foul, it was knocked in play. Guthrie managed to escape the first three innings without allowing a run, but he allowed a one-out double and a run-scoring single in the fourth. Third baseman Michael Young brought the Rangers (9-10) within one run on a two-run home run in the fifth, all but ending Guthrie's night.
Texas came back for three more runs in the sixth inning against Matt Albers, and starter Matt Harrison made it stand up the rest of the way. Harrison (1-2) retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced, and the Texas bullpen survived a brief scare in the ninth inning. In truth, though, the game turned on Guthrie's early exit.
"I just think tonight was different. His command wasn't off tonight," said manager Dave Trembley. "He was around the plate tonight. There were a lot of foul balls. A lot of two-strike foul balls. ... They fought some real good pitches off. I don't think it had anything to do with him trying to protect the lead. He was very aggressive. I thought his command was good [and] his tempo was good. He just had to work real hard to get outs."
The right-hander has now allowed three earned runs or more in four of his first five starts, and his ERA after five starts (5.20) is a full run higher than it was last year (4.19) at this point. Guthrie allowed four earned runs or more in eight of his 30 starts last season, but it took him all the way until August to do it twice in a row.
This year, he's already done that and has been removed before the sixth inning twice. Guthrie completed six innings in four of his first five starts last season, but still feels like he's pitching at a similar level.
"If you look, I didn't win a game last year until mid-May," Guthrie said, parsing his own statistics. "Execution-wise, I feel very positive. I don't think I've gotten a tremendous amount of breaks through these first five starts, but I think overall, guys just hit the ball very well. It's a tough league. It always has been and it always will be."
Baltimore (9-11) burst out of the gates Monday night, using three straight singles in the first inning to score the game's first run. The Orioles notched three more runs in the second inning -- with one of them scoring on a Robert Andino single and two more on a Brian Roberts hit -- before Texas clamped down for good.
The Rangers, meanwhile, earned their lead with a flurry against Albers (0-1) in the sixth inning. Hank Blalock, who had doubled and scored in the fourth, started it off with a single. Taylor Teagarden tied the game with a one-out single, and moments later, David Murphy hit a bases-loaded single to provide the final margin.
"He didn't locate," Trembley said of Albers. "The other day he looked very sharp. You come to expect because these guys are good, that they're going to do it all the time. But then you have to accept the fact that they are not perfect and it's not going to happen every night. That's not caving in or giving in, that's just the way it is. You don't like it, you don't accept it [and it] doesn't mean I don't put him out there again."
Harrison completely shut down the Orioles in the middle innings, holding them without a baserunner in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Andino singled in the seventh to break the deadlock, but wound up stranded at first. Baltimore got two baserunners in the ninth but couldn't find a way to tie the game.
"Everything was on the black and off," said designated hitter Luke Scott. "All four sides, working all four corners. He didn't give us anything to hit. He just did a really good job. That's all you can say."