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Indians' streak ended by familiar face

Indians' streak ended by familiar face

CLEVELAND -- The Indians couldn't decide what role Jeremy Guthrie had with the team, so they put him on waivers before the 2007 season.

In theory -- the same theory used when discussing Brandon Phillips -- the move cost the Indians a bona fide starter, as the 29-year-old seemingly found his niche once he landed with the Orioles.

On Wednesday night at Progressive Field, they still couldn't figure out Guthrie -- only this time it cost them a victory and a chance at notching their season-high sixth straight win.

The Indians cracked Guthrie for just one run over seven innings in their 6-1 loss before 21,299 fans, snapping their five-game winning streak to an all-too-familiar foe.

"[Guthrie] threw the ball great tonight," manager Eric Wedge said. "He had a lot of action on the baseball, he was throwing hard. ... [He had a] good breaking ball, good changeup and he was on top of his game tonight."

The Indians selected Guthrie with their first-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft and, after a summer of drawn-out negotiations, signed him to a four-year Major League contract worth $4 million. It put both Cleveland and Guthrie in a tough position, immediately placing him on the 40-man roster and leaving the Tribe with just Minor League option years to toy with.

When the Indians signed Trot Nixon before the 2007 season, they needed to free space to accommodate the move. Guthrie, who had yet to live up to his potential and was out of option years, became the logical choice.

Since that choice, Guthrie has made Cleveland regret the move, racking up seven wins last year after being converted to a full-time starter and notching his 10th of 2008 on Wednesday night.

"I think you have to have a sense of gratitude for progress," Guthrie said. "I've been very blessed, obviously, with performances and to be able to progress and get better. I'm very grateful for that.

"I'm happy to be where I am right now and happy with the way things are going."

Aside from one tough inning, Anthony Reyes gave the Indians something to be happy about. Making just his second start with the Indians since he was acquired from the Cardinals, Reyes scattered six hits over six innings, picking up most of his outs on ground balls.

"He's had two very good outings," Wedge said. "He threw a little harder tonight, so that was good to see."

That one bad inning, though, was enough to brand him with his first career American League loss. Reyes allowed a leadoff home run to Aubrey Huff to start the second inning before letting Jay Payton plate another with an RBI groundout.

"I just try to keep the score down and allow the team to get back up there and have a chance to win," said Reyes, who has allowed three runs over 12 innings in his two starts with the Indians.

But after two nights of torching the O's starters and bullpen for a combined 20 runs, the Indians were flat-out punchless on this night. The Tribe managed just four hits and even fewer threats against Guthrie, who induced 10 ground-ball outs, including one double play.

Cleveland's lone run came in the fifth inning, when Andy Marte hit a one-out double to left-center field before Grady Sizemore brought him around with a double of his own to slice the deficit in half, 2-1. But that was it, as Guthrie retired the final six Indians he faced in order and the Tribe picked up a lone single against the O's bullpen.

"[Guthrie] looks good out there. He has some presence to him," Wedge said. "I think the stuff was there, obviously, but just the way he threw the baseball where he wanted to throw it and made the baseball do what he wanted to do [was different]."

The Indians' bullpen, meanwhile, has had a tough time throwing the baseball where it has wanted, and Wednesday night was no different.

On the bright side, struggling reliever Rafael Betancourt worked two scoreless innings, but Brendan Donnelly labored in his second Major League appearance since Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow forced him out of baseball for a year. The 37-year-old right-hander was knocked around for four runs -- all with two outs -- in the ninth inning to eliminate any hopes of a Tribe comeback.

"You always feel like if you can keep it at one run, you've got a chance with each hitter in the ninth inning," Wedge said. "But they really put it together with two outs."

And so did Guthrie, who kept the Tribe behind throughout Wednesday night's entirety by taking out a little revenge on the team that gave up on him.

"I try to block those types of thoughts out," Guthrie said. "The sentiment might be that one would mean more than another one, but I'm just happy to pitch well against a tough team."

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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