Coming off a dismal 2009 campaign, Guthrie's biggest turnaround this season could be traced back to the first inning. In 33 starts last year, Guthrie posted a 7.99 ERA in the first inning, yielding 43 hits (14 for extra-bases) and 14 walks. He hadn't given up a run in the first inning in his first four starts, a streak the Yankees snapped with a pair of runs to start Wednesday's game.
While Guthrie was backed by some questionable defense in the first inning, the second was all his doing. Guthrie opened the frame by plunking Jorge Posada in the right knee, and a single to Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher's triple plated another pair of runs. Swisher scored on Derek Jeter's sacrifice fly, and Robinson Cano homered in the third to give the Yankees a commanding six-run lead.
Posada did not return for the bottom of the second inning and was reported to have a right knee contusion. He was replaced by Francisco Cervelli.
"I'm apologetic for the fact that if he were to miss some time," Guthrie said of Posada. "That would be a shame that it was a pitch that got away from me that had that result."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was frustrated with Guthrie, who also hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch in a Grapefruit League contest on March 29. The pitch to Teixeira, which struck him in the right elbow, was also ruled to be a contusion but caused the first baseman to miss several days after that.
"I don't think he's doing it on purpose, but he hits a lot of people," Girardi said of Guthrie. "It's frustrating for us. We know he's going to pitch inside and I don't have a problem with pitching inside. But what do you expect, me to be happy our guys are getting plunked? I'm frustrated by it. I wish he had better command."
So did Guthrie, who frequently found himself pitching in three-ball counts, a recipe for disaster given the Yankees' potent lineup.
"I thought the first couple of innings he was showing a different style, a different delivery for him," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
"Right out of the chute he was throwing from a lower arm slot and it just didn't seem like that was comfortable for him and it wasn't working for him."
Guthrie was charged with seven runs (six earned), doubling his previous season high and lasting a season-low 4 2/3 innings. Wednesday's outing also snapped a four-game quality-start streak for Guthrie (0-3), who remains winless on the season.
"I'm apologetic to fans who pay to come and watch the Orioles and watch us lose, in this case, because of me," Guthrie said. "I'm apologetic to teammates for the inability to help them win a game in four starts. I'm apologetic to Jorge [Posada] if he is to miss any time for yanking a pitch and hitting him."
Girardi said the Yankees will be without Posada for Thursday's finale, and if Teixeira's plunking had come during the season it would have cost the Yankees several days without their first baseman as well.
"I like our guys to pitch inside, but when our guys are getting plunked, I'm not going to be happy about it," Girardi said.
"I'm not criticizing Jeremy Guthrie. I'm just saying I'm frustrated by it."
Frustrated is a familiar feeling when discussing the Orioles, who at 4-17 are off to the second-worst start in franchise history.
Baltimore mustered 11 hits off Yankees starter CC Sabathia -- who entered the game with a career 2.55 ERA in nine starts against Baltimore -- but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. They went 2-for-12 while stranding eight runners and lowering their Major League-worst RISP average to .197 (34-for-173).
"It seemed like when [Sabathia] had to make quality pitches with two outs and guys on base, he did," Trembley said. "And he was able to repeat it inning after inning after inning."
The Orioles' first two scores came courtesy of Miguel Tejada's fielder's choice in the third inning and Nolan Reimold's sacrifice fly in the sixth, which scored Tejada, who doubled.
Without question, the hardest hit ball for the O's came off the bat of Nick Markakis, who homered -- his first this season -- with two outs in the seventh to mark the first time Sabathia has allowed a long ball at Oriole Park. It was also the first homer Sabathia has allowed to a left-handed batter this year. He surrendered just three in all of 2009.
"Early in the year, if you look at my track record, it's not the prettiest," Markakis said. "But you've got to battle through tough times, I know [for] myself it's an adjustment thing early in the year and you've got to overcome it."
But there was no overcoming a five-run deficit with Sabathia on the hill. The loss snapped the Orioles' first win streak this season at two games, but still gives them a chance to win their first series on Thursday.
"It'll come," Markakis said of the team's sorely-missed timely hitting. "Guys are starting to swing the bats well. You just got to work with what you have and build on that, and I think we are coming around as a team."