Padres bats quiet in loss to Orioles
Offense collects just six hits as Germano drops first game
SAN DIEGO -- The bubble finally burst for Justin Germano on Wednesday, though there wasn't much of a clean-up after a wobbly first inning against the Orioles at PETCO Park.
Germano, the wondrous waiver claim who has done little wrong since his May promotion from Triple-A Portland, was saddled with his first loss of the season, stung by a three-run first inning that led to Baltimore's 7-1 victory over the Padres.
"A quick ambush," Padres manager Bud Black said. "There's no other way to say it."
It's what occurred after the first inning before a crowd of 26,931 that encouraged Black and even Germano (5-1), who suffered his first loss of the season of any kind -- with the Padres or the Portland Beavers.
Germano, despite allowing the first five hitters to reach base to open the game, essentially settled down thereafter, allowing just one hit over the next five scoreless innings, looking more like the pitcher who has been baseball's ultimate $20,000 bargain this season.
"They came out and got some balls through," Black said. "After that, he was outstanding. He retired 16 of 18. It was great ... sort of like we've seen all season."
Germano's post first-inning recovery on Wednesday made him, by all accounts, only the second-best waiver claim pickup on the mound at PETCO Park.
Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie (4-1) continued to spread a little sunshine into what has become a season of struggles for the Orioles. Guthrie allowed a solo home run to Russell Branyan in the eighth inning, but little else.
"That guy was as good as we've seen all season," Black said of Guthrie, who struck out nine and allowed four hits over eight innings. "This isn't anything new than what he has been doing all season."
The same, of course, could be said for Germano, though his first inning played out like a nightmare.
Baltimore leadoff hitter Brian Roberts started the game with an opposite field double that snaked down the left-field line. Nick Markakis followed with an RBI single. After Kevin Millar's RBI double, Germano made his only bad pitch of the inning, hanging a curveball to Miguel Tejada that became a run-scoring double.
By the time Germano got Jay Gibbons to popout to shortstop Khalil Greene, he was 23 pitches into his eighth start of the season. That was just the first out of the inning. From that point on, it was damage control.
"I just focused on getting that first out and take it from there," Germano said of his first-inning predicament. "I was really hoping I could bounce back and keep us in the game and give our bullpen a rest."
Germano was able to essentially do that -- Doug Brocail and Kevin Cameron shouldered the final three innings, allowing a combined four runs -- by getting his curveball over for strikes and getting good life on his fastball down in the strike zone.
Germano struck out a season-high seven batters and walked two before leaving the game after six innings.
Normally, a three-run first-inning outburst wouldn't be considered so insurmountable, as the Padres (41-29) entered the game having scored a combined 23 runs during their prior two victories.
But it was on Wednesday, as Guthrie was in complete control, overpowering many of those same hitters who feasted on meaty pitches by the Cubs Sunday (an 11-3 victory) and the Orioles (a 12-6 victory) only the day before.
"It seems like, this day and age, you don't run across too many starters throwing 97, 98 [mph]," Branyan said. "I think he got us a little rushed. His ball was getting up there pretty good earlier in the game. A combination of that and he had a little bit of offspeed that kept us off balance."
Guthrie was claimed off waivers from the Indians before the start of Spring Training and, while he's just 4-1, the right-hander could easily have a better record by now if Baltimore would have scored more runs for him.
He has only three victories since moving into the starting rotation on May 8, although he has allowed just 12 earned runs over his last nine starts.
"It was just one of those nights, you know," said Padres leadoff hitter Marcus Giles, who struck out three times against Guthrie. "I'm not so sure if things would be the same if we faced him again. I think we started having better at bats against him the later we went ... and started fading him out a little bit but it seemed like, by that time, it was really too late."
That's because by the time Guthrie was gone, the Orioles (29-41) were well on their way to victory, which was the first for interim manager Dave Trembley.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.