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For Guthrie, escaping first inning key

For Guthrie, escaping first inning key

BALTIMORE -- It's an obstacle that often fells rookie pitchers, but rarely Opening Day starters.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Tuesday that he just wanted Jeremy Guthrie to get through the first inning cleanly. And if the right-hander can to do that, Trembley thinks his normal success will begin to follow. Going into Tuesday's start, Guthrie allowed 27 total runs in the first two innings and 22 in all the others combined, prompting Trembley's concern.

"I've seen it enough to bring it up to everybody and say it's something I'm concerned about," he said. "The first inning has been an inning for him where his pitch count gets run up. He gets to two strikes a lot, and they foul pitches off. He's got to keep his pitch count down in the first inning and get through ... without them scoring runs."

Trembley said he has no explanation for the trend, but the statistics back up his claim. Opposing hitters have batted .351 with a .413 on-base percentage and a .596 slugging mark against Guthrie in the first inning and .327/.370/.735 against him in the second. From then on, Guthrie holds opponents to less than a .300 average.

The right-hander didn't make it through the first inning two starts ago, when he recorded two outs and allowed six earned runs against Oakland. The Orioles trailed when Guthrie left the game in six of his past 10 starts, and the former first-round draftee has allowed less than three earned runs in just one of his past 11 outings.

"He's had a couple starts that haven't been up to his liking," said Trembley. "I think he's up for a good one tonight."

Trembley also said that the 30-year-old has to locate his breaking pitches better and bear down on the bottom of the opponent's batting order. And when asked if Guthrie, a former Stanford student, sometimes outthinks himself on the mound, Trembley didn't say much to deter than line of logic.

"Probably. He's a sharp guy," said Trembley. "But as far as preparation is concerned, I don't think there's anybody better. The guy does his homework. He's prepared as well as anybody and knows what he wants to do."

Guthrie did exactly what Trembley wanted on Tuesday, escaping the first inning on a popup, a strikeout and a ground ball.

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

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