BALTIMORE -- Orioles starter Brian Matusz took the mound on Monday night with a fresh slate, possessing a perfect 0.00 ERA and a mindset that a 2011 season in which he went 1-10 with a 10.69 ERA never happened.
But it took just one 30-pitch inning to conjure up images of the past, as the 25-year-old Matusz struggled with his location and allowed 10 baserunners over four innings in Baltimore's 6-2 loss to the Yankees.
Monday's defeat, in front of 25,478 at Camden Yards, handed the O's their first loss of the season and found Matusz -- who had an impressive spring after showing up in noticeably better shape -- still trying to reestablish himself as one of Baltimore's frontline starters. Could this still be seen as a step forward on Matusz's long road back?
"Obviously, I'd like to go deeper in the game and give the team a chance to win," said Matusz, who tallied 96 pitches in the 12-out start. "So I'm not happy at all with [Monday], but I'm on the right track to be where I need to be."
Added manager Buck Showalter: "I feel a little different about this outing than some last year. I think there are some things that I have a lot of confidence in Brian and he'll get better at."
Working with a fastball in the 92- to 93-mph range -- a significant improvement over last year -- Matusz issued three walks in the first 3 1/3 innings and allowed New York to get on the board right away, courtesy of Mark Teixeira's two-out RBI single. Admittedly trying to nibble at the corners, Matusz fell behind against six of his first nine batters faced and had just one clean inning -- an 11-pitch second -- before Showalter was forced to dip into the bullpen.
"That's a tough lineup, and [I was] just trying to be a little bit too fine with a lot of their big hitters, rather than trusting my stuff and attacking the zone," said Matusz, who ran three-ball counts on eight of the 21 batters he faced. "I felt strong throughout the whole game. The training's really paying off. It's just being able to settle in and getting ahead of the count."
Matusz was helped by several key defensive plays, including one in which Matt Wieters -- who tied a career high with four hits -- threw out Derek Jeter on a steal attempt, as well as a lunging catch by shortstop J.J. Hardy to end the fourth. Wieters concurred with Matusz that in terms of stuff, the left-hander was crisp; it was just a matter of getting into too many favorable hitters' counts.
"His stuff is leaps and bounds better than last year," Wieters said. "That's the first step. He's just got to get back to pitching."
Matusz's performance snapped a stretch of three consecutive outings of seven innings or longer from Orioles starters and handed the Yankees (1-3) their first win of the season. Matusz exited after throwing 96 pitches (52 strikes) in favor of Darren O'Day, who tossed a scoreless fifth inning before giving up a solo homer to Andruw Jones to lead off the sixth. New York, fresh off being swept by Tampa Bay, used the seven walks issues by Baltimore to its advantage, pounding out 11 hits in addition.
"I can't even tell you what happened in the past, because I don't remember," Jeter said of Matusz's struggles in 2011. "We had some good at-bats. I thought we had some good at-bats the first three games. We hit a lot of balls hard, but right to some people. Today, we were a little more fortunate."
While Matusz struggled on the mound, the Orioles' offense did little to alleviate his troubles. The O's went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position over the first six innings, with the first run off Yankees starter Ivan Nova coming on a homer in the second by Wieters. Chris Davis added a run-scoring double off Nova in the seventh.
"He was able to mix his slider and mix his breaking ball in, and he's got a fastball that's in the low to mid-90s, so he's got good stuff," Wieters said of Nova, who kept the Orioles from building any momentum in his seven-strikeout outing. "He did a good job of scrambling the hits a little bit. We were able to get some hits, but just not put them together for the big inning.
Monday's loss also extended Matusz's career-high losing streak to 10 games, the longest active streak in the Majors. His last victory came on June 6, 2011, against Oakland, the second start Matusz made after opening the season on the disabled list due to a left intercostal strain.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.