Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz, left, listens to pitching… (Associated Press photo…)
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 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, MacPhail's parent club continued to produce virtually nothing for anybody to feel good about. It got so bad Thursday night that even one of the only bright spots from a brutal first month couldn't 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 two-game sweep with an impressive display of offense before an announced 17,304.
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 teams combined for 35 hits and 43 base runners.
"It just wasn't Matusz's night," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He's going to have his nights just like anybody else who has pitched in the big leagues. He's a young guy. He's not Warren Spahn yet or Sandy Koufax. Come on. He's a young guy who is learning. I guarantee he'll take a great deal from this and the next time he faces these guys, you'll see a better outing. "
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 campaign until Aug. 2.
Thursday night's game was essentially over not long after it started, as the Orioles didn't wait around for a late bullpen implosion to cost them a victory, as it did Wednesday. However, they did at least rally at times to make the game competitive before their season-long futility with runners in scoring position prevented the Orioles from making the Rangers sweat too much.
Overall, the Orioles stranded a season-high 15 base runners and went 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position. They had the bases loaded in the first inning on a shaky Scott Feldman and couldn't score as Matt Wieters swung at a first pitch that was neck high and grounded out.
Trailing 8-4 in the fifth, the Orioles had men on first and third and no outs and they couldn't score. They had a man on second with no outs in the seventh and again couldn't push a run across.
Still battling in the eighth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out and scored just once on Miguel Tejada's fielder's choice, which cut the Rangers' lead to 8-5. The Rangers then turned the game into a laugher by scoring five times in the bottom of the eighth off Alberto Castillo, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game to accommodate the pending arrival of infielder Scott Moore.
"Really, you can't put this one on the fact that we didn't get enough hits," Trembley said. "We gave up 20 hits and 13 runs."
Matusz (2-4) 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. Cruz finished with a career-high four hits, five RBIs and a triple shy of the cycle.
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 momentum his team had by serving up a 397-foot, two-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero in the bottom of the inning.
"Tonight was just one of those nights where my stuff was flat," Matusz said. "I wasn't getting on top of the ball and driving it down in the zone. I got out of my element really early and wasn't able to settle in and get in any type of groove whatsoever. It makes it tough when you're facing a tough lineup like that and you don't have your good stuff. It was a tough day, but I'll tell you what, I learned a lot from today."
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 2 1/3 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 in his other outing during that span.