April 10, 2011 in Sports

Starting pitching carries Orioles to torrid start

Larry Stone Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Zach Britton is one of team’s many reasons for surprise start to season.
(Full-size photo)

By the numbers

18: Total number of home runs by the New York Yankees through the first eight games of the season.

19: Total number of home runs given up by the Boston Red Sox through the first eight games of the season.

One of the early surprise teams in the majors was the Baltimore Orioles, who won their first four games behind strong starting pitching.

It was even a bigger surprise considering the starters were one of the Orioles’ major question marks heading into the season.

Those questions became even greater when No. 2 starter Brian Matusz started the year on the disabled list with a strained back muscle.

Baltimore had already lost Justin Duchscherer to the DL with left hip soreness and back stiffness, while Brad Bergesen was moved temporarily to the bullpen in part because he was struck in his forearm by a Denard Span line drive.

So what do the Orioles do? Their first four starters – ace Jeremy Guthrie, ex-Seattle Mariner Chris Tillman, top prospect Zach Britton (called up to replace Matusz) and Jake Arrieta – threw 26 combined innings and allowed just two earned runs as the Orioles started 4-0.

The team got another jolt when Guthrie spent two nights in the hospital this week with a form of pneumonia. Entering the weekend, Guthrie’s scheduled start today was still up in the air. If he can’t go, the Orioles will likely call up ex-Mariner Chris Jakubauskas from Triple-A Norfolk.

Jakubauskas, who was in the Pirates’ organization last year, didn’t allow a run in spring.Guthrie, who pitched eight shutout innings against Tampa Bay on Opening Day, tweeted of his illness: “Initially thought I had BieberFever but turns out I have pneumonia.”

Cleveland struggles with empty seats

The Cleveland Indians, in town to face the Mariners this weekend, are already having attendance issues.

After selling out on Opening Day, as they always do, the Indians drew crowds of less than 10,000 in four of the next five games of the season-opening homestand.

This occurred despite a successful homestand that started with two losses but ended with four consecutive wins, including a three-game sweep of Boston.

The Indians are finding it hard to win back the ardor of their fans, who not that long ago set the major league record for consecutive sellouts (455) between 1995 and 2001.

“Do I want to see the stadium packed? Of course, but that’s something that’s out of my control,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta told reporters. “If we win, they’ll come.”

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