Baltimore-Tampa Bay: Melvin Mora's Big Hit Leads the Orioles to 6-0 Win.

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Baltimore-Tampa Bay: Melvin Mora's Big Hit Leads the Orioles to 6-0 Win.
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

 

Baltimore's ace, Jeremy Guthrie improved to (2-0) on the 2009 season as the Orioles won for the second straight game versus World Series, runner-up Tampa Bay.

Third baseman Melvin Mora provided the offensive firepower, notching his first grand slam of the season, and Guthrie pitched six strong innings in the 6-0 shutout victory.

After ending a 12-game losing skid against the Rays on Friday, the Orioles clinched their first series win over their divisional opponent since August 3-5, 2007.

Baltimore is 4-1 through its first five games of the season. This equals their best start since the 2000 season. The Orioles took two-of-three from the New York Yankees, before being blown out in that series' final game, 11-2.

Mora made sure game No. 2 in this matchup would go in the favor of the Birds. Mora capped a five-run first inning when he sent Tampa Bay starter's, Jeff Niemann's offering over the deep left field seats at Camden Yards. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Aubrey Huff scored on the "grand salami". Mora went 1-for-4 with 4 RBI.

The Orioles have a modest lineup on paper, but have utilized their team speed and ability to get on base to their advantage.

Many preseason baseball analysts had Baltimore finishing either fourth or fifth in the AL East. With 157 games left in the regular season, the team knows this is only the beginning. Guthrie credited Mora's big hit with giving him the confidence to settle down. Nervous pitchers tend to miss their targets. Guthrie wanted to establish his control against the opportunistic bats of the Rays' top hitters.

"I expect the big hits from Melvin and everybody else," Guthrie said. "He came through tonight and got us that big lead."

Baltimore's bullpen shined tonight as well. Matt Albers, Jamie Walker, and Chris Ray made sure the Rays' offense would stay silent on this gorgeous spring evening. They pitched three innings in relief of Guthrie, giving up three hits combined and recorded three strikeouts.

Rays' third baseman Evan Longoria and catcher Dioner Navarro were the only hitters who had moderate success against the Orioles' pitchers. Both finished the game going 2-for-4. Tampa Bay left 19 men on base. They went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Something manager Joe Maddon addressed in the postgame interview.

"We had some chances to get back into it, but we did not," said Maddon. "(Guthrie) made some good pitches when he had to. He pitched well. He had everything going on."

Jeff Niemann was making his fifth major league start. He pitched a solid game minus the first inning. Brian Roberts led off the game with a double and Niemann (0-1) hit Adam Jones to put the two men on the base pads. Then, right fielder Nick Markakis doubled in Roberts. The Orioles went ahead 1-0.

Aubrey Huff then walked to load the bases. Mora saw two pitches in his first at-bat. The second pitch was the one he liked the best. He tattooed Niemann's 0-1 delivery to record his first grand slam since June 2005 at Detroit.

Ty Wigginton followed Mora' blast with a single, before Niemann got his first out. "It was a rough start," Niemann said. "I had to go out there and keep trying to get guys out and let the defense work for me. I battled back, but I put us in the hole from the get-go."

Baltimore went up 6-0 as Niemann was chased after surrendering two consecutive walks to start the bottom of the sixth inning. He went 5-and-one-third innings allowing six runs on six hits, struck out three batters and walked four men.

Orioles Notes:

The Orioles have scored 16 runs in Guthrie's two starts.

After the game, relief pitcher Matt Albers was optioned to Class AAA Norfolk to make room for RHP Adam Eaton.

Eaton is expected to start the series finale.

Jeff Niemann made four starts last year, going 2-2 with both wins coming versus Baltimore.

 

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