BALTIMORE (AP) — There are times when Jeremy Guthrie throws so well, it’s downright hard to believe he’s got more losses than any pitcher in the major leagues.
Guthrie allowed three hits over seven innings and matched a career high with 10 strikeouts, leading the Baltimore Orioles past the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 Wednesday night.
The Rays are in the middle of a playoff run and the Orioles are in last place, but Baltimore won the pivotal game of the series behind Guthrie (8-17), who won a second straight start for the first time this year.
“You know when you play Tampa, for the most part you’re going to have to pitch with them. Starting pitching, especially,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Tonight, it was that case.”
There was a point in the season not too long ago when Guthrie appeared destined to become a 20-game loser. But he’s 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in five starts since Aug. 13.
“I’m just taking it one at a time,” he said. “I think I have a couple more and at the end of the year you look back and see where you’re at.”
After watching Boston lose to Toronto, the Rays took the field knowing that a victory would put them within three games of Boston in the AL wild-card race.
Instead, they lost a second straight to the team with the second-worst record in the American League.
“Just because Guthrie has 17 losses doesn’t mean he’s a bad pitcher,” Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said. “There are a lot of teams that if he were on them, he would be their ace and he would have a lot more wins.”
Next up for the Rays: Four games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, beginning Thursday night. Tampa Bay swept a three-game series from Boston last weekend and is 9-5 against the Red Sox, including 4-1 on the road.
“Let’s get out of here and get up there, get our mojo back,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Wade Davis (10-9) gave up a three-run homer to Chris Davis and a solo shot to Nolan Reimold. Wade Davis, who allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, is 4-1 in six career starts at Camden Yards.
Matt Wieters added a two-run shot in the eighth off Matt Moore, who was making his major league debut. It was Wieters’ 20th home run, the third in three games.
If the Rays fall short in their bid to reach the playoffs, they can blame either a 1-8 start or their 9-9 record against the Orioles, who are 14-33 against the rest of the AL East.
“These guys have our number right now. They have played us well all year,” Maddon said.
Guthrie improved to 6-10 lifetime against Tampa Bay, 2-3 this season. He also beat the Rays on opening day.
“He just kept the ball down and didn’t leave it over the middle of plate,” Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton said. “He has always had good stuff and he showed that today.”
Jim Johnson worked the final two innings for his sixth save, the second in two nights.
Guthrie retired the first eight batters before Reid Brignac singled in the third. Reimold opened the bottom half with his 10th home run, a low-flying line drive that glanced off the top of the left-field wall and into the seats.
The lead didn’t last long. Guthrie walked two of the first three batters in the fourth and Matt Joyce cleared the bases with a two-out double.
In the Baltimore half, Vladimir Guerrero beat out a slow roller to third, Wieters doubled and Chris Davis hit an opposite-field homer to left on an 0-2 pitch for a 4-2 lead.
Tampa Bay’s final threat came in the seventh. Damon drew a leadoff walk and took second on a single by Joyce before Guthrie sandwiched two strikeouts around a fly ball by John Jaso.
Guthrie was more delighted about playing a part in beating the Rays than he was in earning a rare win.
“We matched up well at the plate, we pitched well and got some big hits,” the right-hander said. “It’s a nice series.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)