Having played 40 innings in the last three games and completely emptying out their bullpen yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles really needed Brian Matusz to step up and pitch deep into the game. He didn't, and as you can see by the final score, he wasn't very good. The Orioles bats were shut down for most of the game by starter Matt Harrison, and by the time they showed a bit of life late, they were in a huge hole.
It doesn't surprise me that the Orioles bats weren't on fire tonight. I had already decided that this would be a really tough game to win because I have to think they're all drained from this weekend. But I didn't expect Matt Harrison to so thoroughly shut them down. Through the first five innings, Harrison allowed just three baserunners; J.J. Hardy singled twice and Mark Reynolds took a walk.
By the time the Orioles got their first run on the board in the sixth inning, the Brandon Snyder Gang had demolished Matusz to the tune of seven runs. Matusz had a fantastic first inning, needing just ten pitches to retire the side in order, but it was all downhill from there. He started the second with a walk to the gimpy Adrian Beltre, and then gave up a double to Nelson Cruz. A normal runner would have scored easily, but Beltre was visibly hobbling around the bases and stopped at third.
That brought Brandon Snyder to the plate, the former first round pick of the Baltimore Orioles who was sold to the Rangers for cash over the off-season. Well, if Snyder was looking to punish his old team, he succeeded. Snyder lined a base hit back up the middle to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
The Rangers scored another run on a sacrifice fly in the third inning while Matusz continued to struggle. His command was terrible, his breaking ball was missing all over the place, and his pitch count was racking up. He looked better in the fourth and fifth innings, especially the fifth when suddenly his breaking ball was back. It was like magic! Sadly it didn't last.
The Rangers greeted Matusz in the sixth inning with three consecutive singles, which led to one more run and a 4-0 lead. Then, with two runners on, Snyder came to the plate again and continued his barrage on the Orioles with a home run to center field. That made the score 7-0 and Matusz was pulled from the game.
Through five innings, Matt Harrison had thrown just 54 pitches. It seemed like every time the Orioles hit the ball hard it was right at someone, and it looked like Harrison was on his way to a complete game (he wasn't).
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Orioles finally got on the board thanks to a home run from Robert Andino into the bullpen. Nice, Dino! Hardy doubled following the home run for his third hit of the game, but sad sack Nick Markakis grounded out again to end the inning. Seriously, it is getting brutal watching him at the plate.
But before that happened, new Oriole Stuart Pomeranz took over for Matusz and was fantastic. Pomeranz has bounced around the minors for a long time, drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2003 draft. But he had some injuries and off-the-field problems and ended up in the independent league and is working his way back. I'm happy to report that Stu Pomeranz's major-league debut was a success. He pitched three innings in relief and didn't allow a run. He gave up three hits, but two of them were on the ground into left field so they only count as like, a half a hit each. His velocity was good, his command was good, I was impressed.
Unfortunately the good bullpen vibes couldn't continue with Jason Berken, who came in to pitch the ninth inning. Berken was the victim of an error by Mark Reynolds, which made five of the seven runs unearned, but he looked terrible. The Rangers hit him all over the place (including another RBI for Brandon Snyder) and it looked like it might never end. But with the bullpen depleted yesterday, Berken wasn't getting rescued. He mercifully got the third out after giving up seven runs on six hits and walk, including two home runs.