ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — With Jeremy Guthrie outpitching David Price, the new-look Orioles cruised past the Tampa Bay Rays.
Guthrie allowed three hits in eight shutout innings, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis each drove in two runs and Baltimore opened the season with a 4-1 victory on Friday night.
Taking up where they left off during a nice two-month stretch to end last season under manager Buck Showalter, the Orioles ruined a festive evening in which the defending AL East champions hoisted their latest division title banner at Tropicana Field.
And, they did it with Guthrie outdoing last year’s AL Cy Young Award runner-up.
“It’s one day, but I sure like being on this end of it,” Showalter said. “It’s a tough place to play on opening day.”
Roberts hit a two-run triple off Price in the fifth and scored on Markakis’ sacrifice fly. Markakis also had an RBI single in the third.
Ben Zobrist homered in the ninth for Tampa Bay. Rays newcomers Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon each went 0 for 4.
In his third opening day start in four years, Guthrie returned 13 batters in a row between Dan Johnson’s second-inning double and Zobrist’s single leading off the sixth. B.J. Upton double leading off the eighth for Tampa Bay’s third hit.
Zobrist homered on the first pitch of the ninth off Jim Johnson. The Orioles reliever struck out Damon and Evan Longoria, then got Ramirez to ground out to finish the combined four-hitter.
The heart of Tampa Bay’s betting order — Damon, Longoria and Ramirez — went 0 for 12 with three strikeouts in its debut. Damon and Ramirez, once teammates in Boston, were brought in after the Rays lost All-Star Carl Crawford and slugger Carlos Pena to free agency.
“It’s hard to gauge out hitters because their pitching was that good,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not like we weren’t swinging the bats well. Guthrie was good, man.”
Guthrie walked one and struck out six.
“Throwing before the game, I felt good. I was very excited, really, wanting to get out there and go after it,” Guthrie said. “It was a great crowd, but I was able to tone it down a little bit. I had a feel for the ball and was able to carry it over into the game.”
A sellout crowd of 34,078 — the sixth straight for a Rays home opener — booed Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The fans stood and cheered wildly as the Rays’ 2010 AL East flag was raised to the left-field catwalk alongside banners recognizing the team’s 2008 division and league championship.
Before the game, Maddon reflected on how far the franchise has come since he was hired after the 2005 season and helped transform a last-place team into a contender.
“I think at that time if I had spoken too loudly about” the prospect of winning championships “people would have thought I truly was crazy,” Maddon said.
With his first opening day assignment, Price became the 13th pitcher in major league history to start an opener, an All-Star game and a postseason game by the age of 25 — a select group that also includes Whitey Ford, Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela, Robin Roberts, Don Drysdale and Bret Saberhagen. Tom Glavine was the last to do it 20 years ago.
The hard-throwing lefty allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out seven, while losing to the Orioles for the first time in five career decisions.
“I felt good. But when you’re going against another team’s No. 1 and give up four runs, you’re going to lose,” said Price, a 19-game winner in 2010. “I’ve got to get better.”
The Orioles’ lineup featured four players — Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy — who’ve joined the team since the end of a 13th consecutive losing season.
But they are just part of the reason Baltimore is excited heading into the season. The team is also hoping build off 34-23 record it compiled after Showalter took over last August. That late run didn’t enable the Orioles to escape the AL East cellar, but they did begin to build some confidence.
“I think the proof will be in the W’s and L’s. Change doesn’t necessarily mean things are going to be better,” Showalter said. “We’re starting off at the American League East champions’ ballpark. We’ll find out real quick.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)