The Orioles came close to notching a record-breaking sixth tie of the Grapefruit League season. Instead, they allowed two go-ahead runs in the ninth inning and lost to the Tigers, 6-4. This close, people. We were this close to history.
Brian Matusz was on the hill with the fifth starter's role still up for grabs, and early on it looked like he was going to squander the opportunity. Matusz coughed up base hits to the first four batters of the game. That included a two-run double by Miguel Cabrera, who was back in the Tigers' lineup after his face lost a battle with a ground ball last week. Matusz's rough beginning had panicky, overly-cynical O's fans wailing that he'd reverted to last season's form and moaning that the Orioles were doomed and then hurtling themselves out of open windows.
But Matusz actually recovered pretty nicely after surrendering three runs in the first. He was unscored upon for the remainder of his five-inning effort, collecting four strikeouts and reportedly hitting 92-93 mph with his fastball. Because of that long first inning, he wasn't able to pitch past the fifth, ultimately throwing 86 pitches (57 strikes). It was a decent outing that didn't really cement Brian's status either way-- he didn't lock up the fifth starter's job with a dazzling show, but also didn't pitch so horribly that he'll be on the next bus to Norfolk.
The O's offense spread out their four runs over four innings, highlighted by Adam Jones's fourth homerun of the spring. Endy Chavez, after missing a few games with an injury, returned to the lineup and continued to hit, going 2-for-2 to boost his spring average to .533.
Troy Patton, who doesn't exist, gave up a game-tying homer to Tony Plagman, who exists even less. In the ninth, Jim Johnson continued to struggle, issuing walks to a couple of nobodies and then a two-run triple to Plagman. So apparently Tony Plagman, who for all I know was a fan randomly picked out of the crowd before the game, completely destroys the Orioles.
And I must say, I'm getting worried about Jim Johnson. I know spring training doesn't mean much, but Johnson has looked off-kilter all spring. His velocity is down. He's walking everyone. I can't help but think back to two years ago when O's closer Mike Gonzalez looked terrible in spring and kept saying things like "Don't worry, man, I'll be fine" and "I'm just working on stuff-- I'll be ready when the bell rings." Then the bell rang and he got bludgeoned for like a year straight. Hopefully we're not repeating history with J.J.
With the 6-4 loss, the Orioles' Grapefruit League record is now 11-12-5.