Matusz, Orioles get Texas-toasted

Rangers 13, Orioles 7

Starter allows 7 earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings

Castillo rocked, too, then demoted

May 20, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | Baltimore Sun reporter

ARLINGTON, Texas — Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has spent the week watching the organization's Triple-A team in Norfolk, Va., where in the past 48 hours, two of the organization's prized young pitchers -- Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta -- combined to throw 14 consecutive scoreless innings.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,400 miles away, under the bright lights of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, MacPhail's parent club continued to sink into further despair. It has gotten to the point where even one of the only bright spots from a brutal first month is struggling to get big league hitters out.

Rookie left-hander Brian Matusz was bashed around for seven runs and knocked out of a game before the fourth inning for the second time in three starts, and the Orioles were throttled, 13-7, by the Texas Rangers, who completed the brief but painful two-game sweep before an announced 17,304.

The teams combined for 35 hits and 43 base runners. The 13 runs the Orioles allowed were four more than their previous season high, and the 20 hits by the Rangers were five more than the Orioles had surrendered all season.

The Orioles have now lost five of their past six games and are a dreadful 5-17 on the road this season. At 13-29 overall, they are a season-high 16 games under .500, a level they didn't reach in their 98-loss 2009 season until Aug. 2.

While MacPhail has said he isn't focused on the managerial situation, the Orioles' latest loss will undoubtedly spur more speculation that Dave Trembley's tenure is nearing an end, particularly with Monday's day off looming.

Thursday night's game was essentially over not long after it started, as the Orioles didn't wait for a late bullpen implosion to cost them a victory this time. However, they did at least rally to make the game competitive before their season-long futility with runners in scoring position persisted.

Overall, the Orioles stranded a season-high 15 base runners and went 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position a night after going 4-for-13. But in appointing blame for the latest defeat, it was hard to stray too far from Matusz, who barely gave his team a chance.

Matusz surrendered four runs in the first inning, three of them scoring when Nelson Cruz teed off on a 2-0 pitch and bashed it over the left-field wall. Overall, Matusz faced nine batters in the first inning, which started -- to no surprise -- with a leadoff walk, and included a bloop single that second baseman Ty Wigginton probably should have caught and a routine grounder that Wigginton definitely should have fielded.

The Orioles got back into the game with a three-run second, spurred by Corey Patterson's two-run double, but then Matusz squashed any of his team's momentum by serving up a 397-foot, two-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero in the bottom half of the inning.

Trembley finally came to the mound to take the ball from Matusz after David Murphy's line single up the middle gave the Rangers a 7-3 lead. In just 21/3 innings, the shortest start of Matusz's young career and the shortest outing for an Orioles starter all season, the rookie left-hander allowed a career-high seven earned runs on eight hits and a walk as his ERA rose to 5.26.

It was the second time in three starts in which Matusz has given up at least six earned runs, though the 23-year-old did pitch seven scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians during that span.

Rangers starter Scott Feldman wasn't a whole lot better, but he kept the ball in the park and was able to get out of jams. Feldman allowed a total of 12 hits, the most by a starter this season who wound up winning the game.

Trailing 8-4 in the fifth, the Orioles had men on first and third and no outs and couldn't score. They had a man on second with no outs in the seventh and again couldn't push a run across.

In the eighth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out and managed to scored just one run on Miguel Tejada's fielder's choice. Darren Oliver struck out the red-hot Luke Scott on three pitches to end the threat and keep the Orioles' deficit at three runs. The Rangers then turned the game into a rout with a five-run eighth inning off Alberto Castillo, who is expected to be sent to Triple-A Norfolk today to accommodate the arrival of infielder Scott Moore.

Scott did go 3-for-5 with an RBI. He's now 18-for-34 in his past nine games with seven multi-hit games, and he has reached base in 10 of his past 13 plate appearances.

The Orioles had 15 total hits, but few of them were of any consequence. Matt Wieters went 1-for-4 and stranded five base runners. Adam Jones was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, and his lone hit, an RBI double in the ninth inning, came with the Orioles trailing 13-5.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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