Rookie Matusz gets reeled in by Marlins
Lefty squanders four-run lead, allows six over 6 1/3
BALTIMORE -- In a disappointing first half of the season, the Orioles' offense has shouldered the blame for much of what has gone wrong during Baltimore's Major League-worst 19-52 start.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
But in an alarming and unforgiving trend, the team's starting pitching has begun to buckle as well, with Wednesday's starter Brian Matusz the latest Oriole to succumb to the big inning. The 23-year-old Matusz allowed six earned runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings -- after yielding six earned runs total over his previous three starts -- as Baltimore suffered a 7-5 loss to Florida on Wednesday night.
Working with a rare four-run cushion, Matusz recorded just one out before relinquishing the lead, deflating the crowd of 13,720 at Camden Yards who watched the Marlins gift-wrap a first-game win for interim manager Edwin Rodriguez.
"It's real simple, I left the ball up," said Matusz of his third-inning woes, which included a pair of two-run homers. "When your team scores four runs in the second for you, you want to go out and throw up zeros. Just go out and go 1-2-3, keep the momentum our way. And I just lost concentration."
And the Orioles lost the game, sinking to 4-13 under interim manager Juan Samuel, who has yet to win a series since taking over for Dave Trembley on June 4.
"They all hurt," Samuel said. "After scoring those four runs, we thought, 'OK, we could add,' but we've been in that situation before many times."
Samuel -- who has made it no secret that he's not afraid of trying new things -- put catcher Matt Wieters in an interesting situation in the eighth. Trailing by two runs, Luke Scott drew a leadoff walk off reliever Taylor Tankersley and the Marlins promptly inserted right-hander Brian Sanches to face Adam Jones. Jones' flare into right field brought Wieters to the plate as the go-ahead run after he posted back-to-back three-RBI games entering Wednesday. Samuel made the call for Wieters to lay down the sacrifice bunt, an attempt that went up in smoke, as catcher Ronny Paulino grabbed the dribbler -- which was only a few feet in front of the plate -- and easily nailed Scott at third.
"That was my decision; that's what I wanted to do," Samuel said of tasking Wieters to lay down his first professional bunt.
Wieters said he was fine with the call, but chided himself for not getting the ball out far enough on the infield grass.
"I just have to get the job done," he said. "We do [bunts] every day three times in [batting practice].
"It's the same in BP as it is in the game. You just got to catch the ball and get it down."
The lack of execution would prove critical as Scott Moore struck out to keep the pair of runners entrenched at first and second. Pinch-hitter Jake Fox walked to load the bases for Corey Patterson, who connected for his second two-out single of the game to score Jones and close the Marlins' lead to one. But Sanches put Miguel Tejada in a quick 0-2 hole and ended the inning on a shallow fly ball, quashing any hopes of a late-game comeback.
"That's why we're in the situation that we're in," Scott said. "It's been a collective thing."
Baltimore went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and allowed Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco all the rope needed to go seven innings despite an early scare. With Matusz in sore need of run support -- getting just 12 runs in his last 10 outings -- the O's kick-started some offense for their young starter in the second inning.
Scott and Jones blasted back-to-back one-out homers off Nolasco, and Wieters followed with a single. One out later, Cesar Izturis delivered a double to put runners on second and third for leadoff man Patterson, who drove in another pair of runs.
"[I] saw that I had a comfortable lead and instead of making quality pitches, I just threw the ball over the plate and left it up," said Matusz, who settled down to retire 11 in a row before allowing another pair of runs to open the seventh.
"When [Matusz] was down, he was tough," Wieters said. "They had a difficult time with him. But when you're down, down, and you make that one mistake, it looks like a beach ball coming up there because they haven't seen those types of pitches."
While the Orioles let Nolasco and his early struggles slip away, the Marlins didn't let Matusz off the hook, plating a pair of runs in the seventh -- and adding another in the ninth off Alfredo Simon -- that would prove to be pivotal.
"Clutch hitting, that was the name of the game," said Rodriguez, who watched his team go 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position to start his tenure at 1-0.
"Everything worked fine. Great bounce back by Ricky Nolasco. He battled there."
And the Orioles were left with another casualty, falling to 3-11 in Interleague Play and dropping their 20th series this season.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.