The Orioles' Julio Lugo is hit by a fifth-inning pitch… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
After winning a season-high four straight games in dramatic, comeback fashion against National League East opponents, the Orioles faced an American League club for the first time in a week.
And the Orioles quickly rediscovered their familiar 2010 formula of failing to get key hits, playing shaky defense and wasting a quality outing from a starting pitcher. They at least mixed in a new wrinkle, an angry exchange of hit batters that led to an umpire's warning.
The result Tuesday was a 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics and emergency starter Vin Mazzaro, who walked a career-high six batters, hit one and threw two wild pitches, yet allowed just one run and three hits in six-plus innings.
"I'm not going to call it frustration," said third baseman Miguel Tejada, who struck out twice in five hitless at-bats. "I'm going to call it that [Mazzaro] just did the job."
In front of an announced 11,987, the Orioles (23-53) squandered chance after chance against Mazzaro, who didn't know he would be starting until shortly before game time, when Dallas Braden was scratched with elbow stiffness.
"It didn't really bother me. I didn't care," said Mazzaro, who has collected three of his seven career wins against the Orioles. "You do what you've got to do. If you have to go out and pitch, you've got to do it."
Mazzaro (3-2) had trouble locating his pitches, throwing just 48 of 94 for strikes, and one of the balls that got away was a topic of discussion after the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mazzaro hit Orioles second baseman Julio Lugo in the left shoulder. Lugo took a few paces toward the mound before being guided to first base by A's catcher Kurt Suzuki and plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth.
"It was too close to the head. If they want to hit me, just hit me below the waist and I could take it," Lugo said. "But you don't throw at people's heads. You come here, it's a job and you are looking for your family and for yourself. You don't throw high and in."
Several Orioles, including interim manager Juan Samuel and designated hitter Luke Scott, spilled out of the home dugout before returning. Before the top of the sixth, Culbreth warned both dugouts.
"The umpire felt like he had to send a warning just to stop anything that could happen," Samuel said. "That was the end of it, hopefully."
Mazzaro said he "was just trying to go in" with the pitch. However, it might have been retaliation for the top of the fifth, when Orioles starter Brian Matusz hit A's first baseman Daric Barton in the back. Barton walked slowly up the first base line and shouted, "That's twice," to Matusz. Matusz also plunked Barton on April 18 in Oakland.
"That's the second time I've hit Barton this year, and I think I've only hit three guys all year," Matusz said. "After a leadoff triple, I wanted to go in on him, try to jam him a little bit, see if I can get a popout or something. But I had no intention of hitting him. The ball just ran in a little bit, kind of like the first time I hit him in Oakland."
Lugo's plunking was followed by the hit-by-pitch that wasn't.
After Lugo went to first, Mazzaro appeared to hit Cesar Izturis in the left foot with a pitch, but Culbreth ruled it struck the batter's box dirt instead. Lugo went to second on what was ruled a wild pitch, and Izturis stayed at the plate.
The call worked in the Orioles' favor when Izturis lined a pitch from Mazzaro into the left-field corner to score Lugo and get the Orioles within one run, 2-1.
Once more, in the eighth, the Orioles closed within a run, but they couldn't come back as they had in each of their past four wins.
"Not every day are we going to do it," Lugo said. "We've been playing good, we hit the ball. We have got some guys on base. Today we just couldn't come up with a [key] hit."
The Orioles were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. Additionally, Scott was thrown out at the plate on an attempted sacrifice fly in the second inning.
The lack of runs again haunted Matusz (2-9), who is tied with teammate Jeremy Guthrie and two others for the most losses in the American League.
Matusz lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits, a walk and three earned runs, all RBIs by Suzuki: an infield single in the third, a fifth-inning groundout that might have been a double play had Ty Wigginton not bobbled it and had to settle for one out, and a single against reliever Jason Berken that bounced off Tejada's glove and trickled into left.
The A's scored again in the ninth against Koji Uehara, who made his first appearance since May 19 and allowed one run on two hits in one inning
It cemented a 13th consecutive start without a win for Matusz. Eight of those have been quality starts. He hasn't won since he beat Oakland on April 18 in his third start of the season.
"That's how it goes sometimes," Matusz said. "You can't control that. Things haven't gone my way."
Things had been going the Orioles way in the previous four games -- and for the first time this season. But on Tuesday, they returned to the painful norm: a quality start from a pitcher and, ultimately, another loss by the Orioles.
"A very good game by Brian. He threw the ball well," Samuel said.
"We just couldn't get enough runs for him."
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