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Homers continue to plague O's Guthrie

Homers continue to plague O's Guthrie

BALTIMORE -- Gone, gone and gone again. Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie fed more data to a recurring trend on Friday night, when he gave up three home runs in a 6-5 loss to the Red Sox. Guthrie has now allowed a league-high 26 home runs in 20 starts, a tater total that bulges in comparison to his work in prior seasons.

Guthrie, who has been Baltimore's Opening Day starter in each of the past two seasons, had never allowed more than 24 home runs in the Major Leagues. The right-hander has blown by that number with two months to go, and he's already allowed more multihomer games (eight) than he did all of last season (six).

All of those statistical facts add up to one major problem for Guthrie, and the normally self-assured starter has begun to succumb to a case of creeping doubt. Guthrie admitted after Friday's loss that he doesn't know the root of his troubles with the long ball, but he vowed to find it and eradicate it as quickly as possible.

"I've been very receptive, open to work, putting a few extra hours of work than I usually do," Guthrie said of his current mind-set. "I don't have the explanation. I don't have the solution, obviously, or I would've hopefully corrected it by now. I would take any suggestion. I have taken suggestions. The few that I have gotten, I haven't been able to apply properly to achieve the results. But I'm willing to work as hard as I can to correct it -- and have been."

Guthrie said that he hasn't been able to locate any mechanical flaws from his video study, and he also said that he's put in extra work on the side to try to work out his struggles. And so it was that Guthrie, hours before Friday's start, was seen throwing right in front of the home clubhouse to bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck.

Guthrie also took a normal warmup session, and he appeared to have his stuff in order in the first inning. Three homers later, though -- including a well-hit shot on a well-placed pitch -- Guthrie was back to square one. The only thing he could pinpoint, he said, is that it seems like he hasn't had great movement on the ball all season.

"Ultimately, if I can keep the ball down, I still have a chance to keep it in the yard," Guthrie said of his control. "There's plenty of pitchers that go out there and pitch down and don't give up home runs. ... For whatever reason, I have not been able to do it, no matter how much I've not focused on it or how much I have focused on it."

Truth be told, Guthrie (7-10) pitched competitively for much of Friday's outing. The former first-round Draft pick allowed a run but worked out of a jam in the second inning before giving up a two-run shot to David Ortiz in the third. Jacoby Ellsbury reached Guthrie for a solo homer in the fifth, but the Orioles provided run support.

Baltimore (44-58) used a two-run homer by Nolan Reimold to cap a three-run rally in the third inning, and Aubrey Huff broke a drought of 82 at-bats without a homer, hitting a two-run shot off John Smoltz in the sixth. Boston (60-42) immediately broke back, though, and Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer in the seventh to put the Red Sox back in control.

"I don't have the explanation. I don't have the solution, obviously, or I would've hopefully corrected it by now. I would take any suggestion. I have taken suggestions. The few that I have gotten, I haven't been able to apply properly to achieve the results. But I'm willing to work as hard as I can to correct it -- and have been."
-- Jeremy Guthrie

That shot -- and the momentum it stole from the Orioles -- gave Dave Trembley manager's remorse.

"We busted our butts to win the game tonight and I left Guthrie in the game one hitter too long," said Trembley before enumerating the reasons for the decision. "He's supposed to be your best guy. He's your No. 1 guy. ... He deserves the opportunity to be there. It's that simple. If he gets the guy out, it's a different story. He doesn't. He said he wanted the pitch back, but I'm the guy who left him out there, so I'm the guy responsible for it."

If you look at the three home runs, there's no trend other than poor timing. Ortiz, who had also homered off Guthrie in his previous start, hit a low fastball out of the park. Ellsbury blasted a changeup high in the strike zone, and Youkilis hit a pitch over the plate that was supposed to travel down and away and out of the hitting zone.

"It seems like he makes good pitches and then one pitch, he'll leave up," said Huff. "And it seems like when he does it, they always get it. You never see guys foul it off or anything like that. It's one of those years. As a hitter, I can speak for having one of those years where you struggle like this year.

"I imagine that's the way he feels sometimes. He's been through a lot of tough luck this year. When he's given up the runs, it's the homer. I just think he's leaving some balls up and they're getting hit."

Huff, meanwhile, hit his first home run since July 3, and he did it at a key point of the game. Huff's 200th career home run -- which traveled to straightaway center -- gave the Orioles a brief 5-4 lead in the sixth. That advantage stood for all of five batters, and Ellsbury made a highlight-reel catch off Luke Scott to keep it a one-run game.

Youkilis homered in the seventh, though, to upstage Huff and swing the game in Boston's favor. Still, for Huff, who had sweated out the non-waiver Trade Deadline, it was a positive omen for the season's final two months.

"I had a good session with [hitting coach] Terry Crowley in the cage," said Huff of his batting stroke. "We made some adjustments. Just little things. I don't want to give you the secret. He noticed some things that I was doing wrong that we fixed in the cage. Hopefully, I'll go back out there tomorrow and keep it up."

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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