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Guthrie gets the job done for Orioles

Guthrie gets the job done for Orioles

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BALTIMORE -- It was tough to tell this Labor Day weekend which team was headed toward its 12th consecutive losing season and which was fighting for its first playoff berth in a decade.

The Orioles staved off a losing-season-clinching 82nd loss for the second consecutive afternoon on Sunday, riding veteran Jeremy Guthrie to a 7-0 win against the American League Wild Card-contending Rangers before 21,599 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It was just the third shutout of the season for the Orioles, who clinched their second series win since the All-Star break and kept loss No. 82 at bay for at least one more game.

"[It's a] nice way to end the homestand and nice to be able to win this series against a team that's probably going to be in it right until the end," manager Dave Trembley said. "They've got a very good-hitting club. Guthrie had to make some pitches, and he had a real good rhythm."

Guthrie won for the third time in four starts, going six or more innings for the fourth consecutive outing. He quieted a potent Rangers attack for seven innings, scattering six hits and striking out six. Guthrie, who was pulled for reliever Matt Albers after 110 pitches, has allowed just four earned runs in his past 27 innings.

Guthrie didn't need much run support from his reserve-laden lineup, but he got plenty.

Backup catcher Chad Moeller doubled to deep right-center with two outs in the second, the ball eluding a sprawled-out Marlon Byrd by mere inches. Moeller's eighth double of the season scored Melvin Mora and Jeff Fiorentino for a quick two-run advantage.

Fiorentino pitched in with an opposite-field single to score Mora with nobody out in the fourth, shortly after Ty Wigginton followed Mora's walk with a double to left-center. After Moeller struck out and reserve shortstop Robert Andino walked, Brian Roberts roped a single to left, scoring Wigginton and Fiorentino. Texas starter Derek Holland walked Felix Pie and was pulled in favor of Dustin Nippert, having allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings.

Nippert got Nolan Reimold to fly out to short right, but Nelson Cruz double-clutched before his throw found home plate late and wide, allowing Andino to score the Orioles' fourth run of the inning. Nick Markakis grounded out to short to end the rally.

The Orioles added another run in the seventh, when Fiorentino singled home Markakis for his second RBI of the afternoon.

Fiorentino was making his first start since 2006, and he responded by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two more driven home. Trembley called Fiorentino's two-out walk in the second inning the most important at-bat of the game.

"We're all happy for him," Trembley said. "He's coming off a very good year in Triple-A. He knows how to handle the bat, and he had a very nice game. A very nice game."

Fiorentino, called up on Tuesday, was prepared for the start, as Trembley told him he'd be doing so on Saturday.

"Every day I come in here, I'm hoping, I go check the lineup just to see if I am in there," Fiorentino said. "I think every at-bat I came up there today, I had somebody on base."

While Fiorentino is trying to make the best of his few opportunities in the Majors, Guthrie is trying to atone for a rough start and lend some credence to the club's patience with him.

Sunday's outing sparked the club's first shutout since June 1. In a season plagued by inconsistency, Guthrie has put up a four-game stretch that provides some hope looking toward 2010. The lone veteran on the Orioles' staff, Guthrie has allowed just four earned runs over his past four starts, spanning 27 innings.

"I've been working on things to get a better release for about the last month, and I feel like it's really been a big difference for me," Guthrie said. "I feel like the fastball, I have more confidence with it because of the extra movement that I was used to in the past years. Things go much better when you're confident with what you can do."

Guthrie had a trio of three-up, three-down innings in this contest and was helped by a double-play ball in the fourth. He walked only one batter and was around the plate consistently -- throwing 73 of his 110 pitches for strikes.

With an arsenal of young arms coming through the farm system, Guthrie had been cast aside by fans and analysts alike this season, and he admitted after the game to being aware of that. He hasn't, however, let the negativity surrounding his struggles get the better of him.

"I think the attention that was given to the other players, the other young pitchers, was deserving," he said. "Those guys deserve the credit, they deserve attention, and if they have gotten it, that's great. But I haven't gone home feeling left out or overlooked."

Sean Welsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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