Simon falls apart in 9th as Orioles fall to Indians

Closer blows first save as O's three-game winning streak snapped

  • Orioles closer Alfredo Simon waits for a new ball after Cleveland's Austin Kearns rounds third base on a three-run homer in the ninth inning.
Orioles closer Alfredo Simon waits for a new ball after Cleveland's… (AP photo )
May 15, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

It had been 16 1/3 innings before the Cleveland Indians had last scored a run, which only added to the Orioles' misery when a two-run ninth-inning lead turned into a lopsided loss.

Trying to close out the Orioles' fourth straight victory, closer Alfredo Simon imploded in the ninth inning, allowing an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo, and then a towering three-run homer to Austin Kearns that sent the Indians to an 8-2 victory before a stunned announced crowd of 29,545 on Saturday night at Camden Yards.

Simon, who blew his first save in six opportunities, got the first out, but then allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera, and a walk to Mark Grudzielanek. Choo cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1 with an RBI single and then Kearns bashed a 0-2 pitch deep into the left-field seats before Simon was yanked from the game. Simon and Orioles manager Dave Trembley walked back to the dugout to a chorus of boos.

Cla Meredith relieved Simon and surrendered a two-run double to Mike Redmond and a two-run homer to Trevor Crowe to push much of the crowd toward the exits. The Indians had scored just one run in the first 17 innings of the series before the eight-run ninth-inning outburst against the Orioles (12-25)

The Orioles, whose only offense against Indians starter Mitch Talbot came on two solo homers by Ty Wigginton, went down relatively quietly in the ninth inning and finished with just six hits. Wigginton now has 12 homers on the season after hitting 11 all of last year.

It was a bitter end to a night in which starter Brian Matusz turned in seven shutout innings, and put his team in position to clinch the series win.

Matusz flirted with disaster for much of his outing, but he showed mettle, especially in the seventh inning, when the Orioles' rookie left-hander was one pitch away from watching a shutout turn into a potential loss

Gamely protecting a one-run lead, Matusz walked the Indians' No. 8 and No. 9 hitters to start the frame, and both were in scoring position with one out. Matusz, his pitch count over 100 and the Orioles' bullpen busy behind him, got the second out when Grudzielanek flied out to right field, too shallow for the Indians to test the arm of Nick Markakis.

Matusz then retired Choo on a groundout to escape the jam. Authoring a fine follow-up to Guthrie's one-run and two-hit gem over eight innings, Matusz allowed seven hits and walked four, but was at his best when the Indians had runners in scoring position.

Matt Albers got the first out of the eighth and after Will Ohman walked Travis Hafner, Koji Uehara came on and get the final two outs of the inning, striking out pinch hitter Grady Sizemore to strand two runners. But Simon couldn't hold up his end in the ninth, robbing Matusz of his third victory.

Matusz was coming off one of the worst starts of his young career as he was knocked around by the Minnesota Twins last Sunday for six earned runs on nine hits and a walk in just 3 2/3 innings. It was his third straight loss, but the other two defeats, at the hands of the New York Yankees, were both quality starts.

"What I told Matusz after the game when he pitched in Minnesota is you are not perfect, but for me, you're pretty darn good," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think that sums it up in a nutshell. He had a bad outing. He didn't do anything particularly wrong. It won't be the first time in his career and it won't be the last time, but he's still pretty good."

Trembley then predicted that his rookie left-hander would go out and pitch a good game. He wasn't especially sharp early, allowing one baserunner in each of the first two innings.

Crowe, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday with infielder Andy Marte going to the disabled list, led off the third inning with a single. But Wigginton, who had hit a solo homer to put the Orioles on the board in the previous inning, made a leaping grab of Cabrera's liner, and then Matusz picked off Crowe for the second out.

The next two Indians — Grudzielanek and Choo — reached base on a single and four-pitch walk before Matusz fanned Kearns on a 93 mph fastball to end the threat.

He appeared headed for an easy fourth inning, striking out the first two batters. On consecutive pitches, Matt LaPorta and Lou Marson blooped singles into center field, forcing Matusz to retire Crowe on a fielder's choice to end the inning.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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