O's showcase offensive ineptness in loss to Mets

Matusz pitched 8 innings and Orioles were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in loss

June 13, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Luke Scott waved the paper in his right hand, a tangible example of the Orioles' offensive frustration, evidence in his mind that he and his fellow scuffling hitters simply can't catch a break.

For the 20th time this season, the Orioles lost a game because they failed to score more than a run, this time wasting a strong performance by rookie pitcher Brian Matusz while falling to the New York Mets, 3-1.

They were victimized by a botched defensive play and another unheralded hurler. On Saturday night, it was 35-year-old rookie Hisanori Takahashi (5-2), who had gotten shelled in his previous two starts but allowed just one run and six hits in seven innings against the toothless Orioles.

To hear the burly designated hitter tell it, however, Takahashi had some help -- courtesy of plate umpire Tom Hallion, who rang up Scott to end the sixth inning on a slider that appeared to be well out of the strike zone.

Scott, who jawed with Hallion after the call and had to be led to the home dugout by interim manager Juan Samuel, didn't leave his beef to mere interpretation. He printed out a still shot of the video clip with the ball clearly in the opposite batter's box and took the additional, highly unusual step by showing reporters the umpire's miscue after the game.

"Look at that, right there. If you want to, check the paper out. I mean, you try to hit that pitch right there," an incredulous Scott said. "The ball is in the other batter's box. You can't hit that. You can't even put it in play. You can't foul it off. There is nothing you can do. Things like that have been happening to us consistently. And it makes it really tough to overcome."

Scott, who was hitless in four at-bats against Takahashi, said the phantom strike wasn't the only one called against the Orioles on Saturday it's a complaint the struggling club privately has chirped about much of the season. This time, Scott made it prime time.

"It has just been difficult, trying to overcome obstacles. There's just been things that just haven't gone our way," Scott said. "From large strike zones to balls right at people. That's part of the game, that happens. But what can you do? We have to find a way to overcome these obstacles. You've just got to find a way."

Frustration, thy name is Orioles, losers of 16 of their past 19 and owners of baseball's worst record (17-45). Saturday's defeat, before a raucous announced crowd of 42,248, guaranteed that the Orioles would go winless in their past 10 series (0-9-1) while the Mets (34-28) clinched a road series for the first time in 10 tries this season.

Matusz (2-7) did his part, allowing three runs on five hits including a solo homer by Jose Reyes to lead off the game and another by Jeff Francoeur to start the eighth. He walked none for the first time since April and struck out four.

"I think it's one of the better starts of my career," said Matusz, who threw 93 pitches, 62 for strikes. "I didn't walk a guy today, and I threw a lot of strikes. I made a couple of mistake pitches with the solo home runs, but that's what's going to happen when you throw a lot of strikes."

But he lost.

It was partially because the offense again failed miserably with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-10 with one RBI, Nick Markakis' double in the first to score Corey Patterson from second. It was the club's first RBI and fourth hit with runners in scoring position in 27 at-bats against the Mets and dropped their majors-low average in those situations to .216.

The defense, which continually fails to record key outs, had an assist in the defeat. With runners on first and third and one out in a tie game in the sixth, David Wright hit a come-backer to Matusz for what looked like a sure, inning-ending double play.

Matusz threw to second baseman Julio Lugo for the first out, but Lugo's relay to first baseman Ty Wigginton soared, forcing Wigginton to leap and leave the base. Wright's foot beat Wigginton's to the bag by an eyelash, allowing Ruben Tejada to safely cross the plate with the go-ahead run.

"I wanted to throw him a changeup down, try to get a ground-ball double play, and I got it, right back to me," Matusz said. "Lugo made a bad throw, pulled Wiggy off the bag, but that happens. I made the pitch I needed to. That type of thing happens."

Those miscues occur with stunning regularity to the Orioles, who need to go 50-50 in their final 100 games of the season not to exceed 95 losses on this dismal year.

"When you're in a funk, those things happen. It seems like you don't make the play and it costs you. When things are going right, you don't make the plays and it does not cost you," Samuel said. "It's the same as the hitters. When you're in a funk, before you know it, you've got two strikes on you. There's nothing you can do."

For the 15th time in 16 games, an opposing pitcher has recorded a quality start against the Orioles. And another quality start by an Orioles pitcher was tossed into the loss column.

"We're just not hitting. The kid, all he can do is make the pitches. The offense needs to pick those guys up, the defense needs to pick those guys up," Samuel said. "It hasn't been happening, but as long as these guys continue to pitch the way they're pitching, hopefully the team will break out of it."


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