Orioles throw away opportunities in loss

Yankees 4, Orioles 1

  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate with high-fives from Adam Jones, left, and Nick Markakis after his three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 04, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | Baltimore Sun reporter

NEW YORK — Even before rookie pitcher Brian Matusz's ill-fated throw to first base in the fifth inning, the Orioles appeared to be doomed after three of their best players had opportunities to break open a game and they all swung-and-missed.

Oriole pitchers simply have no margin of error as Matusz found out again Tuesday night when his poor throw to first cost the Orioles another game that they had every opportunity to win. The New York Yankees got the go-ahead run in a 4-1 victory before an announced 43,260 when Matusz tossed Ramiro Pena's sacrifice bunt attempt into right field, but that was just one in a series of inept moments that showed the Orioles for the last place team that they are.

The Orioles (7-20) continued to come up painfully small in the clutch, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Their latest poor offensive performance could be summed up by the top of the third inning after pitcher A.J. Burnett's throwing error on Cesar Izturis' sacrifice bunt attempt brought home the game's first run and put runners on second and third with no outs.

Burnett fanned Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters in succession and on a total of 17 pitches. The Orioles then had a runner on second with two outs in two other innings and couldn't convert as Burnett improved to 11-2 against them in 15 career starts. He allowed one unearned run, five hits and walked two while strikeout out eight over 7 1/3 innings, and became the 16th opposing starter in 27 games to pitch at least seven innings against them.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have scored just two runs in 18 innings of the series. In five games against the Yankees, who will go for the series sweep this afternoon behind Andy Pettitte, the Orioles have totaled just 10 runs, and five of them came in their only victory against New York last Tuesday.

Overall, the Orioles have been held to three runs or fewer in 18 of their 27 games, and one run or less eight times already this season.

Matusz, who has now been beaten twice by the Yankees in a five-day span after winning six straight decisions, pitched gamely again, allowing three runs — only one earned — on six hits and three walks over six innings.

But he was left to lament a rocky fifth inning that started with a leadoff walk to Brett Gardner. Francisco Cervelli, getting the start with Jorge Posada sidelined with a calf injury, then blooped a single into right field, one of his three hits on the night.

With men on first and second and no outs, Pena predictably dropped down a bunt. Matusz fielded it, but like Burnett did two innings earlier, the Orioles pitcher threw wide right to Ty Wigginton, who was covering the base. Gardner scored the go-ahead run and the Yankees still had men on second and third with no outs and their top of the order yet.

Matusz nearly escaped without allowing another run, retiring Derek Jeter on soft infield liner and then getting Oriole killer Nick Swisher to fly out to shallow right field. Needing one final out to keep the Orioles' deficit at a run, Matusz walked Mark Teixeira, and after a long, nine-pitch battle with Alex Rodriguez, he missed outside with a 3-2 pitch, bringing home a run and giving New York the 3-1 lead.

With the way the Orioles have been swinging, a two-run deficit in the sixth looked more like eight runs. When they faced Burnett last Thursday, they managed just three hits all singles - against him over eight shutout innings.

They got plenty going against Burnett early, but didn't do nearly enough with it. Nowhere was that more evident than in the third inning, which started with a Garrett Atkins single and a Rhyne Hughes walk.

Izturis then dropped down a sacrifice bunt that Burnett fielded and made a wild throw to first base that got by Robinson Cano, who was covering the bag in anticipation of the bunt. Atkins scored the game's first run, and the Orioles still had runners on second and third and no outs with the top of the order due up.

That started with Jones, who swung and missed at a curveball for the final strike of a six-pitch at-bat. The hot-hitting Markakis followed and flailed at a curveball in the dirt, Burnett's fifth pitch of the at-bat. Wieters was the last hope, but he too fanned on a curveball, also the sixth pitch of the at-bat. It was part of a brutal night for Wieters, who struck out three times and also grounded into a double play.

On this night, he had plenty of company in the Orioles' offensive misery.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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