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TB@BAL: Jones smacks a two-run single up the middle

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' Brian Matusz stood pensively atop the dugout steps after leaving in the sixth inning with a one-run lead against Tampa Bay, lamenting how he could not help his team by going deeper in the game.

Matusz pitched well enough in spurts to keep the Orioles in the lead, but he simply could not find a way to close the door on the pesky Rays. Once again, the Orioles' dominant bullpen responded, combining for three shutout innings to preserve a 5-3 victory.

Orioles third baseman Steve Tolleson picked a critical time to pick up his first RBI of the season with a second-inning double and Bill Hall added a homer in the eighth after being called up from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day. With the victory, the Orioles remain in first place in the American League East, two games ahead of the Rays.

"It's coming. There's a lot of positives in today," Matusz said. "Kept the ball down, slider felt good, but just have to keep working hard and staying on top of things and keep battling. I'd like to go deeper in games. That would be huge for [the] next outing."

The Orioles' bullpen has been outstanding this season, ranking second in the Majors with a 2.13 ERA. Neither Luis Ayala nor Pedro Strop allowed a hit in the seventh and eighth, respectively, and Jim Johnson picked up his 11th save by closing out the ninth. The bullpen has retired 19 consecutive batters over the past two games.

"I feel good because we found people that we can play with and we can win [with]," Strop said. "A lot of people are asking me, 'Are you surprised at this team?' We aren't surprised. We've been doing what we were hoping. A lot of people are surprised, but we're not. We are going to keep winning games."

Adam Jones also went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Baltimore.

Matusz allowed three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk over 5 2/3 innings. He picked up his second win in three starts and is now 2-4 with a 5.50 ERA.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter hopes Saturday's outing is another step in the right direction for Matusz, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He was also pleased his team was able to take advantage of five uncharacteristic errors by the Rays that accounted for three of the five runs.

"You never see Tampa with five errors," Showalter said. "Today wasn't the cleanest-played game, but we were able to get a bigger hit than them. That's a tough team. They're resilient. They never quit. I know they're missing their star player but they always give us a tough time."

Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore allowed two earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts and four walks over 4 1/3 innings.

Tampa Bay opened a 1-0 lead in the second on Brandon Guyer's home run to left-center field. The Orioles answered in the bottom half of that inning when Jones scored off Tolleson's double. However, Guyer then bobbled the ball in left field, also allowing Matt Wieters to score from first base to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

"We're just trying to keep it going," Jones said. "We're not trying to jinx ourselves. Just take it one game at a time. We're playing our division right now. These are games that are really, really important, especially early in the season. You know we are going to face our division all of September. So to get off to a good start against them now is a good thing."

The Orioles increased the lead in the fifth when Luis Exposito reached on catcher's interference, J.J. Hardy singled and Nick Markakis walked to load the bases. Jones followed with a single that was bobbled by center fielder B.J. Upton and the Orioles opened a 4-1 lead, ending Moore's night.

Hardy has reached safely in 17 of his past 19 games. A two-run single by former Orioles outfielder Luke Scott cut the margin to 4-3 in the sixth. However, Hall's first homer since May 14, 2011, gave Baltimore some breathing room in the eighth.

"It's a very loose team, I think that's what you've got to have in order to win ball games," said Hall, who still had remnants of shaving cream on his face, courtesy of Jones. "You have to have as much fun, be as loose as possible. Obviously the more pressure you put on yourselves, it obviously makes it a lot better when you're winning games."

The Orioles are now 22-10 against AL East opponents since Sept. 7, 2011. The Rays, meanwhile, fell to 7-11 on the road -- third worst in the American League. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said Matusz did a solid job adjusting to his batters.

"He was missing, then all of a sudden he got command of his strike zone," Maddon said. "He was getting the low pitch call. To his credit, he was throwing it down there too. He had a better breaking ball. He looked like he did a couple of years ago before that little bit of a hiatus."

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