The Orioles run of strong performances from the starting pitcher came to an end today as Brian Matusz was absolutely miserable in his 2012 debut. The O's offense didn't do much to support his cause, scoring only two runs despite their thirteen hits. It's the O's first defeat on the season, and while losses happen, this one was very disappointing to watch due to Matusz's ineffectiveness.
There was a lot of outrage in the gamethread, on the Twitter, and even from announcer Jim Palmer about the poor umpiring tonight. I'm not going to necessarily disagree, but I don't think it was as one-sided as people were saying it was. The perception might be skewed due to the fact that the Yankees threw a total of 137 pitches and the Orioles threw 182, but if you check out the pitch plots, the mistakes were coming on both sides of the ball.
I had high hopes for Brian Matusz tonight. I certainly didn't expect him to dominate, but I was excited to see how he handled himself after a spring in which we were told time and again how much better he looked. Well, he may have looked better in Spring Training but here in Baltimore he looked kinda crappy. He needed 30 pitches to get out of the first inning and would have thrown more if not for a great catch by J.J. Hardy to end the inning. His velocity looked good but he just couldn't command his pitches at all. Pretty much everything was up in the zone.
Derek Jeter singled to start the first inning and moved to second on a two-out walk to Alex Rodriguez. Mark Teixeira followed with a line-drive base hit to score Jeter. Curtis Granderson hit a pop up that looked like it was going to fall in no man's land behind third base, but Hardy raced out and made the catch.
After a quick bottom of the first in which the Orioles forced Yankees starter Ivan Nova to throw eleven whole pitches, Matusz came back for the second inning and looked like he might recover. He retired the side in order and while his command didn't look great, it was night and day compared to the first inning. Unfortunately he wouldn't keep up the good work.
With one out in the second inning, Matt Wieters kicked off his fantastic night at the plate with a home run to the flag court in right field. By the end of the game Wieters had added two singles and a double, but even his awesomeness wasn't enough to save the team. Mark Reynolds followed Wieters' HR with a double, but was stranded.
Matusz got into more trouble in the third, putting two on with one out for Alex Rodriguez, but he got out of the jam with some help from his catcher. The runners took off as Matusz threw his pitch. A-Rod swung through for strike three and Wieters threw down to third to nail Jeter at third. It wasn't even close.
Despite racking up six hits (including two doubles) in the third through sixth innings, the Orioles couldn't plate a run. They were decidedly unclutch this evening. They wouldn't score their second and final run until the seventh inning thanks to back-to-back doubles from Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis.
But back to Matusz. After being bailed out in the third inning, he wouldn't have such luck in the fourth. He only gave up two hits in the inning, but he walked three and just looked totally lost out there. The Yankees added three runs in the inning and Matusz did not come back for the fifth. Again the inning only ended because of a good play by Hardy, otherwise who knows what could have happened.
Matusz was relieved by Darren O'Day, who had a good fifth inning but quite a bad sixth. After getting the Yankees 1-2-3 in the fifth, O'Day gave up a homer to Andruw Jones, then sandwiched two walks around a single and a sacrifice bunt. He left the game with the bases loaded and one out in favor of the elusive Troy Patton. Patton got a double play ball from Robinson Cano to end the inning. Success!
After giving up one run in the seventh inning, Patton was relieved with two outs by Kevin Gregg. Gregg struck out Russell Martin to end the inning, but was less charming in the eighth, when he was more like the Kevin Gregg we recognize. He loaded the bases with one out on a hit by pitch, a single, and a walk. He got out of it, though, with a double play ball from Alex Rodriguez.
Pedro Strop pitched the ninth inning and easily had the best pitching performance on the night. With his fastball at 96-97 mph and his slider looking good, Strop induced three fast ground outs. Shame the other pitchers couldn't look more like Strop tonight.
I haven't mentioned the offense in awhile, and that's because there isn't much to say. After the run in the seventh scored they weren't able to do anything else. Nick Markakis was called out on strikes to lead off the eighth inning and it was absolutely absurd. You've probably never seen Markakis argue with an ump, so you know when he does he's really angry. Adam Jones followed that with a swinging strikeout, and with two outs the O's put two runners on, but a ground out by Betemit ended the inning.
Andino tacked on a one-out double in the ninth but was stranded, and the O's were handed their first loss of the season. Tomorrow they'll face the Yankees again with Wei-Yin Chen making his major-league debut against Freddy Garcia.