Bullpen breakdown leads to another Orioles loss

Matusz’s solid outing ruined as O’s fall to Red Sox for fifth straight loss

  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters looks on as Boston's Marco Scutaro watches his three-run homer in the seventh inning.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters looks on as Boston's Marco… (AP photo )
April 25, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — — For a fleeting moment, Orioles manager Dave Trembley thought that maybe his club's painful start of the season and interminable losing streak against the Boston Red Sox could come to an end in the most fantastic of ways.

For just a few seconds in the Orioles' 7-6 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday, their 16th defeat in 18games this season, it looked as if a hungry rookie making his major league debut might drive in the tying and maybe even winning runs against an all-world closer.

But not with these 2010 Orioles.

With two on and one out and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon struck out scorching-hot Ty Wigginton and then fanned first-day newbie Rhyne Hughes for his fifth save.

"You are kind of hoping it would be a storybook ending right there for us with the comeback we are getting in the ninth off Papelbon," Trembley said. "But they got the big outs when they needed them."

The three-run, ninth-inning rally fell short, penning another chapter in the Orioles' dogeared tragedy of 2010: close, but somehow, some way not good enough.

It was the Orioles' fifth straight loss and 14th in 15 games. It was their sixth one-run defeat and the 12th time they have lost by three or fewer runs. This time it was punctuated by a season-high 17 hits, but they went only 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position. It also was cemented by two three-run homers in the seventh inning against the Orioles' beleaguered bullpen.

"It's not easy," said reliever Matt Albers (0-3), who lost for the second straight night in Boston, this time after allowing a go-ahead homer to Marco Scutaro in the six-run seventh. "If we come back there and win that game, it's almost like I can almost forget about that outing, put it behind me and say, ‘Who cares?' But it's not really going like that for us now. But I think we are right there, obviously."

Backed by another quality start from rookie Brian Matusz, the Orioles cruised into the seventh with a 3-1 lead and hopes of ending a nine-game losing streak against the Red Sox. Matusz went up 0-2 against Boston's Bill Hall, who entered the game batting .188 and was 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Matusz.

But Matusz, who allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings, inexplicably walked Hall. A seemingly innocuous moment turned into a game-changer.

The next batter, Jeremy Hermida, singled, giving the Red Sox runners at first and third and no outs. With his rookie at 102pitches, Trembley made a change — one that likely will be criticized based on the eventual result and the inconsistency of his bullpen.

"[Matusz] has got the leadoff guy at no balls and two strikes and then goes four straight [balls]. He's got left against left and gives up a hit," Trembley said. "You are certainly not going to let him lose it right there. He's up in pitches and he has gone deep in the game once again. You've got to turn it over to your bullpen and get outs. We didn't get them."

Albers, whose ERA is now 9.35, was summoned. After striking out pinch hitter David Ortiz, Scutaro gave the Red Sox their first lead, 4-3. Albers then allowed a double and a walk and was pulled for Kam Mickolio, who surrendered a three-run homer on his second pitch to Kevin Youkilis.

Suddenly, a 3-1 Orioles lead was a 7-3 deficit.

"I think I am even more frustrated with myself for letting the next two guys get on," Albers said. "You want to keep it to one run right there and have a chance to win that game. It is definitely frustrating."

Still, the Orioles had a chance to win it — or at least tie the score.

Adam Jones homered with one out in the ninth, his second straight evening with a home run, and after Nick Markakis doubled, Papelbon entered.

Miguel Tejada and Luke Scott each added a RBI single to put the Orioles within one with two hot hitters coming up.

Wigginton, who had four hits in the game, including his team-leading sixth homer of the season, struck out, leaving Hughes to jump feetfirst into the fire in his major league debut.

Hughes had singled and picked up a RBI in his first at-bat against John Lackey (2-1) and singled again in his second time up.

But facing Papelbon with two on and two out, the All-Star got the best of the rookie with a strikeout.

"It would have been nice to find the hole that last at-bat, maybe tie things up, take the lead," Hughes said. "I know wins are tough to come by, but it's good to see us battling through the whole game, not letting up at all."

The storybook ending was replaced with the Orioles' harsh reality.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter@danconnollysun

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