Baltimore starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie delivers against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning on Wednesday. - AP

Guthrie shuts down Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's season-best five-game winning streak ran straight into Jeremy Guthrie and his corner-painting curveball.

The right-hander gave Baltimore the kind of pitching performance the Twins are in such dire need of to stay in the division race.

Guthrie pitched seven easy innings and Felix Pie homered in a 5-1 victory Wednesday night that kept the Twins from gaining ground in the AL Central.

"I haven't seen that curveball all year," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said.

Guthrie (9-12) won his second straight start, allowing six hits and one run again after beating Chicago with the same line last week. The White Sox, who lost to Boston, are tied with Minnesota 41/2; games behind first-place Detroit.

"He threw the hell out of the ball. I think we all watched that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

In yet another rebuilding year for the Orioles, who will miss the postseason for the 12th straight time, Guthrie hasn't provided as much of the glue for the rotation as he has the last two summers.

After giving up two earned runs or less in 17 of his 30 starts last year, Baltimore's opening day starter has done that just six times in 26 starts in 2009 while the Orioles have sent a rookie to the mound in 73 of their 127 games.

"The ERA isn't where I wanted it to be, but the opportunity is still there to have a nice win total," Guthrie said. "Just keep plugging along, and there's still opportunities to win games."

The Twins still have opportunities, too, but they're dwindling.

After seeing the Tigers lost to the Angels, the Twins whiffed on their chance to move up with another below-average performance by starter Nick Blackburn, who let No. 9 hitter and backup catcher Chad Moeller reach three times on a walk, a single and a double.

Gardenhire insisted Blackburn's night wasn't bad, but he has been a mess since the All-Star break, before which he went 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA. The Twins are 1-7 in his starts in the second half.

"I'm getting tired of it," said Blackburn, who gave up nine hits. "It's very frustrating to come to the field every single time and continue to do this stuff. I'm trying to battle my way out of it, and I'm working just as hard as I was earlier in the season. I'm just trying to fight through it."

The right-hander was one strike from escaping the first inning without harm, but Nolan Reimold hit a sharp grounder to shortstop and Orlando Cabrera's off-balance, one-bounce throw skipped past first baseman Justin Morneau while two runs scored.

Most of the balls hit against Blackburn, who threw 97 pitches and was removed with two outs in the sixth, were hard. That included an RBI double by Moeller, his last batter.

Except for Cabrera's error, which came after a diving stop, Blackburn couldn't complain about the defense behind him.

After Pie's two-out homer in the fourth, a no-doubt drive over the center-field wall, Moeller singled and Brian Roberts hit a hard bouncer that glanced off Blackburn's glove and scooted toward second base.

Alexi Casilla stopped it with a full-out dive, then with an astonishingly quick flick of his wrist managed to shovel the ball to Cabrera to get the force on Moeller by a split-second and secure his place on the nightly highlights. Casilla made a similar play to end the eighth.

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