Jeremy Guthrie ran up against Yankee Stadium's most perilous section Wednesday night, a quadrant of the ballpark that has seen 44 home runs in the first 19 games. Baltimore's staff ace fell into that trap headfirst by allowing three straight homers -- all in the second inning -- in an 11-4 loss to the Yankees.
Guthrie had never allowed that many home runs in a game before, let alone back-to-back-to-back. The first two long balls -- those by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano -- landed a few rows back. The third one, a titanic shot by Melky Cabrera, traveled into the second deck and gave the Yankees a four-run lead.
"They were all pitches up," said Guthrie of the crucial three-batter sequence. "Every single one of them, the ball was up, and if you leave the ball up in the [Major Leagues], you have a chance to have it hit for a home run. And they did that. You credit them for making me pay a price for leaving the ball up like that."
New York scored six late runs to turn a close game into a rout for the second straight night, but the seeds for victory were sown early. Swisher's home run, which came with a one-run lead, was on a belt-high offering. Cano hit a decent pitch, and Cabrera jumped all over a hanging breaking ball on the inside corner.
Guthrie (3-4) was able to settle down and pitch through the seventh, but the start still represents an alarming trend. The right-hander has allowed 11 home runs in his first nine starts -- almost halfway to last year's total (23) -- and has given up five earned runs three times after doing that just four times in 2008.
"There were some pitches that he just left up -- a couple of offspeed pitches that were left up," said catcher Chad Moeller. "Swisher hit a decent pitch. The first two were fly balls. They may not even make it to the track at our yard. Obviously, the third one was well hit, but they were two fly balls. That's just what the park is."
The Orioles (16-24) were able to make the park work for them in the middle innings, but they studiously avoided the power alley. Ty Wigginton belted a two-run homer in the fourth -- a shot that snapped a four-game streak without home runs -- and Adam Jones followed with a solo shot in the fifth.
New York (23-17) put the game on ice with a six-run rally in the eighth inning, an outburst aided by a Baltimore error. The Yankees used two walks, four hits and a sacrifice fly in that back-breaking effort and have now won eight straight games, a streak that includes two easy victories over the Orioles.
"It was a two-run ballgame," said Moeller. "It definitely hurts, but there has been no lack of competitiveness and drive from the players. There has been no quit. It could have been an easy rollover today and it was not."
"It's never easy, especially when you're on the road and you've got a deficit like that," added manager Dave Trembley. "If we could've scored the one inning when we had first-and-third and nobody out -- if we got that run there -- it would've gotten us one run closer. We got within striking distance and we had the right guys up late."
Trembley went on to praise Guthrie for his resiliency, giving his ace credit for working deep into the game. The Orioles had gotten a reliever up during the fateful second inning, but Guthrie found his way out of the jam and held the Yankees to one hit and one run over the duration of his performance.
"I thought it was a real moxie performance by Jeremy," said Trembley. "He didn't locate early in the game, obviously. The home run balls got to all of us. But he regrouped, located and put zeroes up on the board. He got us back in it. We chipped away and couldn't stay away from the big inning, obviously, late in the game."
Rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold hit the first home run of his career -- a solo shot to straightaway center off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera -- to account for the game's final margin. The Orioles struck out nine times against New York starter Phil Hughes (2-2), but they also elevated his pitch count and chased the right-hander from the game after five innings.
Guthrie, despite lasting later in the game, ultimately took responsibility for the loss.
"It's a tough loss," Guthrie said. "They came out and they made me pay for leaving pitches up. To let them jump out to a five-run lead, it's disappointing. We battled off Hughes, who threw the ball very well.
"If it's not 5-0, maybe we have a better ballgame and have a chance to win this tonight."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less