Mora, Matusz lead Orioles past Rangers
Veteran's three RBIs support rookie's solid performance
BALTIMORE -- Melvin Mora has seen eight consecutive losing seasons in Baltimore. His performance Saturday prevented that streak from growing to nine for at least one more day.
Heading towards an 82nd loss that would guarantee a 12th successive losing season, Mora went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs to spark a 5-4 win over the Rangers before 18,028 at Camden Yards.
It's been a frustrating season for the veteran Mora, the longest-tenured Oriole on the roster. He has struggled offensively, and even challenged manager Dave Trembley last month for dropping him from the middle of the order to seventh and decreasing his playing time.
On Saturday, though, Mora appeared driven.
"I think my motivation is when you see the other team in the other clubhouse, they're contending for the playoffs," Mora said. "I'm going to play like it's the playoffs, too."
Mora made a spectacular diving play in foul territory to rob Ian Kinsler in the eighth, helping back a strong effort on the mound for the Orioles.
Rookie left-hander Brian Matusz struggled to get comfortable as the Orioles sported baggy throwback jerseys of the 1949 Negro League champion Baltimore Elite Giants. Matusz, though, settled down to face the minimum over the final four of his seven innings to improve to 4-2.
"That's kind of how I've been my whole life, where I'll start off slow," a smiling Matusz said from in front of his locker. "As the game goes on, I feel stronger. I feel like I have good command of four pitches at that point, to where I've thrown them enough and I'm in that good, consistent groove. I was able to do that today."
Matusz allowed three runs in the first. David Murphy jumped all over the first offering he saw from Matusz, parking it in the first row of the left-center field seats. The 368-foot opposite-field blast was Murphy's 13th, and gave the Rangers a three-run first-inning advantage.
The Orioles answered when Nick Markakis' sacrifice fly to left plated Felix Pie from third. Murphy's throw from left met Pie and catcher Ivan Rodriguez at the same time, but the veteran catcher was unable to maintain possession for the tag.
The Orioles closed the gap a bit more in the second, as Mora homered for the seventh time this season with one out. The 402-foot shot came on a 1-1 offering from Kevin Millwood.
"I think we made pretty good swings on Millwood today," Mora said. "He's been nasty in the past against us. I was 2-for-16 [against] Millwood, so today was one of my days."
Nolan Reimold brought the Orioles back to even with a solo home run in the third. With one down, Reimold lifted an 0-1 pitch high in the air and into the left-field seats. His 14th home run of the season traveled 364 feet to knot the game at 3. Mora grounded an infield single off the glove of diving Rangers third baseman Esteban German, allowing Brian Roberts to come home with the tying run.
Mora drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the fifth. The clutch grounder ensured that Matusz could go back out with the opportunity for a victory. The rookie responded by retiring 12 of the final 13 he faced.
Before Saturday's game, Trembley spoke about how his pitchers have struggled recently in the first and sixth innings of games. Matusz found success the second and third times through the lineup by simply mixing up his game plan.
"I think he gets in a rhythm more as the game goes on," Trembley said. "He seems to get quicker outs as the game goes on. He doesn't have to throw so many pitches. And he's around the plate so much early in the game, where they come up the third and fourth time, or the second and third time, and they're swinging. And if you notice the way he pitches guys, especially the third time, he pitched almost every one of their guys the third time different than he did the first."
Danys Baez tossed a perfect eighth and closer Jim Johnson forced a groundout and a flyout before getting Rodriguez to ground out to Cesar Izturis to notch his eighth save.
Baltimore's season has been on a wayward path since its midway point, and as the club draws closer to another losing campaign -- combined with the possibility of the club's third 100-loss season in its 55-year history in Baltimore -- Saturday's win was a rare September highlight.
"They pitched well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Johnson came in and shut it down. We got beat today. I can't think of anything out there that we gave them."
Sean Welsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.