Orioles show off arms, muscle in 5-2 win over Red Sox

Matusz, bullpen keep Boston grounded

Scott, Pie provide insurance with homers

September 01, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

It was a fitting end to the franchise's winningest month in six years.

The Orioles got another solid start from rookie Brian Matusz, nine clutch outs from a suddenly shutdown bullpen, some hustle and muscle from Luke Scott, a milestone double from Nick Markakis and enough clutch hits to spoil Josh Beckett's night.

The result was a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox in front of an announced 18,247 on Tuesday night at Camden Yards, and another win over a team with sagging playoff aspirations that simply can't afford to lose games to the Orioles.

It was the Orioles' fourth straight victory, and it allowed them to finish the month with a 17-11 record. Having already secured their first winning August since 1997 with a weekend sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, the Orioles (49-83) collected their most wins in a month since they went 18-10 in September 2004.

"It's been fun. What can you say?" said Markakis, who hit his 40th double, becoming the first player in Orioles history to have at least 40 doubles in four straight seasons and just the 19th big league outfielder since 1900 to have four or more 40-double seasons in his career.

"We are getting pitching, we are getting defense and we are getting offense. When you get all three of those, good things happen. The positive thing is we are doing it against teams that we have struggled with in the past."

Few teams have tormented the Orioles as the Red Sox have, but the Orioles are 7-6 against them this season. That includes a 5-2 record at Camden Yards. With only two games left to play between the teams here, the Orioles are assured of a winning home record against the Red Sox for the first time since 1998.

The Red Sox have lost four of their past five games and are seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card race.

But that matters little to the Orioles, who are 17-10 under manager Buck Showalter and experiencing a feeling that has been absent at Camden Yards for several seasons.

Reliever Jim Johnson, who has missed most of the season with an elbow injury, has been back with the club for only four games, but he has already noticed a difference both from earlier this year and from seasons past.

"I haven't seen the long haul, [but] overall, I think there is a sense of guys expecting to win," Johnson said.

"That's obviously one thing you kind of notice. As a group, we expect to win games, and I think that translates into how we've been playing."

Johnson was one of several players who factored prominently into the Orioles' ninth series-opening victory in 10 tries under Showalter. Brought on in the seventh after starter Matusz issued a leadoff walk to J.D. Drew, Johnson faced men on second and third with just one out and the Orioles' lead down to 3-2.

Rookie third baseman Josh Bell helped him get the second out with a nice play on Marco Scutaro's slow roller, and Johnson culminated a nine-pitch at-bat against pinch hitter Daniel Nava by striking out the rookie on a 2-2 curveball to end the threat.

"Brian pitched his butt off," Johnson said.

"I was just trying to do everything I could to help him win a game."

Michael Gonzalez followed Johnson in and got David Ortiz, the only batter he faced, to line out to left fielder Felix Pie. Koji Uehara stranded a base runner in the eighth en route to retiring all five hitters he faced. The five-out save was his fifth save of the season, and it became Showalter's latest bullpen move to pay big dividends.

"It was a situation where the game called for" it, Showalter said when asked about using Uehara for five outs. "I've been telling you all along, it may not be conventional, but it gives the Orioles the best chance to win there."

Matusz allowed two runs in six-plus innings to improve to 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox. The rookie survived on his fastball and changeup, paying for one of his few mistakes on Jed Lowrie's two-run homer in the fifth inning. The homer cut the home team's lead to 3-2 and ended a stretch of 30 consecutive scoreless innings by Orioles pitchers.

But it didn't deny Matusz his third straight victory. He has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts and three earned runs over his past 21 innings.

"Fortunately, I've been able to string together some good outings and stay strong," said Matusz, who lowered his ERA to 4.72. "It's a matter of staying healthy and continuing to push and work hard and finish off the year good."

The Orioles gave Matusz an early run on Scott's RBI single in the first. They tacked on two more in the third inning when Scutaro fielded Adam Jones' infield single in the hole and fired an errant throw to second to try to get the forceout on a sliding Scott. The Orioles' designated hitter scored all the way from second.

Beckett settled down and got through seven innings, having allowed just the two earned runs. But the Orioles jumped on left-hander Felix Doubront in the eighth for two insurance runs. Scott drilled a solo homer, giving him 26 for the season, a career high. Two batters later, Felix Pie smacked a bases-empty shot, breaking an 0-for-15 skid.

"It's been good as a group," Scott said. "We've gotten great pitching. That's first and foremost. As an offense, [we've] had some really good at-bats and some clutch hits. Guys are really working together to protect each other. To do that together as a group, it really has been fun."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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