The 2011 season could not have started off any better than it did for the Orioles Friday night.
The Orioles picked up right where they left off at the end of last season under manager Buck Showalter, where they went 34-23. They played smart, fundamentally sound baseball while capitalizing and making the most of every opportunity, something they struggled to do for most of 2010.
Jeremy Guthrie delivered 8 shutout innings, throwing just 94 pitches (67 for strikes), and out pitched 2010 Cy Young runner up David Price in the Orioles’ 4-1 win in front of a sell out crowd. The Orioles’ four runs against Price was more than they scored off him throughout all of 2010 (1 ER in 15 IP).
A throwing error on a pick off attempt by David Price allowed J.J. Hardy to move from second to third base after he reached on a double in the top of the third. Nick Markakis followed and put the Orioles up early — and for good — with a 2-out RBI single, knocking in Hardy from third.
After a Matt Wieters single and a J.J. Hardy walk, Brian Roberts smashed a 2 RBI triple to left field giving the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Markakis came through again, this time with a sacrifice fly to bring in Roberts from third, putting the Orioles up 4-0.
Hardy’s impressive day was a reminder towards Oriole fans that there’s finally a shortstop in Baltimore who can really swing the stick. Maybe just as impressive was his 360 spin play over the middle in the seventh where he showed of his powerful, accurate arm.
It appeared Guthrie was beginning to tire when he gave up a lead off double to B.J. Upton in the 8th inning. But he bailed himself out, picking off Upton to squash a possible threat with two runners on with one out.
Guthrie’s fastball location and sharp slider silenced the Rays lineup, who only scored when Jim Johnson came on for the 9th and gave up a solo homer to Ben Zobrist. Johnson settled down afterward, retiring the next three in order; two via strikeout.
After the game Buck Showalter announced that it would be blue-chip prospect Zach Britton replacing Brian Matusz in Sunday’s game. Matusz is suffering from a strained intercostal muscle and will be out anywhere from 3-6 weeks.
The Orioles can guarantee themselves a series win against the Rays with a victory in Saturday night’s game, which starts at 7:10 PM. Chris Tillman will start for the Orioles, while James Shields will take the mound for the Rays.