Orioles fans can only hope Brian Matusz catches this many breaks when he’s actually pitching well. The young left hander gave up a career-high 13 hits in 5-plus innings to the Angels Tuesday night at Camden yards. Four of those hits went for extra bases. Two were home runs. He didn’t set the Angels down in order one time, and still, he only surrendered 5 runs in the Orioles 7-3 loss.
Of course, “only” is strictly a relative term here. And, relative to the way the Orioles offense has been performing–and continued to perform Tuesday–five runs may as well have been fifty.
In Matusz (L, 5-9), a major league pitcher is nowhere to be found right now. He seems never to be in control of anything, from pitch location to game management. Everything seems to be max-effort. Every moment is a colossal struggle. Every inning is a manifestation of chaos.
The Angels got to Matusz for their first run in the third. Rookie Mike Trout doubled and was knocked in by Torii Hunter, who took second on Adam Jones’ throw home. But Matusz caught a break when, on a comebacker, he hung Hunter up between second and third, for the first out. Mark Trumbo singled, but Howard Kendrick hit into a double play to end a 3-hit inning, with the Angels scoring just once.
The Angels picked up two more hits in the fourth, but were held scoreless thanks to a relay from Adam Jones to Brian Roberts to Matt Wieters at the plate, nailing Erick Aybar for out number three. Through the middle of the fourth, the Angels had eight hits. The Orioles had none against CJ Wilson (W, 9-4).
The birds picked up not only their first hit, but also their first scoring opportunity, in their half of the fourth. Jones blooped a single to center with one out, and Wieters followed with a single to left. Jones then stole third, and the Orioles were in an excellent position to tie things up at 1, even by making an out.
But Mark Reynolds made the all important second out an unproductive one, popping out to second, and Wilson Betemit grounded out to bring an end to the inning.
With one on and one out in the fifth, Matusz served up a home run to Albert Pujols in the fifth on an 0-1 cutter that was middle-in, and caught too much of the plate.
The Orioles mounted a huge threat in the fifth, too. Steve Pearce opened things with his second home run, Steve Tolleson followed with a single, and then stole second. Robert Andino walked. With 2 on and none out, Brian Roberts dropped a bunt, moving the runners up.
Facing another 1-out situation with two in scoring position, the Orioles again failed to get the job done. JJ Hardy’s bid for a base hit was snatched away by Aybar at short on a great diving play. Jones grounded out, and Tolleson and Andino were stranded.
Buck Showalter sent Matusz back to the hill to start the sixth, and he promptly gave up a lead off hit to Maicer Izturis, and then left an 83-mph changeup shoulder high to Peter Bourjos, who deposited it into the left field stands for just his third home run. Matusz was pulled, trailing 5-1.
The Orioles actually sent the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the inning, as an Angels error, and a pair of hits loaded the bases. But Tolleson and Andino failed to deliver. The O’s normally reliable bullpen was touched up for a couple of runs, one coming on a long home run by Mark Trumbo off of Tommy Hunter, the other on a homer from former Orioles farmhand John Hester off Kevin Gregg.
Wilson Betemit hit a 2-run homer in the eighth to make the final score 7-3, but this was a game that certainly was not that close.
The birds and Angels wrap up the brief two-game set Wednesday at Camden Yards, with Jared Weaver (7-1, 2.40) facing Jason Hammel (8-2, 2.61) in what looks to be a pitcher’s duel. The Orioles can only hope it is.
- The Orioles stole two bases. The Birds hadn’t stolen a base since the first week of June coming in.
- Matusz looks like a boy among men on the mound. He’s lost his last 4 times out, and has pitched to an ERA in that time of 8.31.
- Even throwing just a couple of innings out of the pen, Tommy Hunter will give up the long ball. Mark Trumbo hit a very long shot off him in the seventh, Trumbo’s 18th, and the 19th given up by Hunter.
- John Hester was the Angels starter behind the plate Tuesday. While he did allow the Orioles first two stolen bases in over three weeks, he also went 3-4 with a home run. Hester was acquired by the Orioles from the D’backs as the player to be named later in the Mark Reynolds deal. On April 12 of this year, he was released after starting the season in Norfolk.