Scott continues solid stretch in O's loss
Designated hitter bashes fourth homer in six games
BALTIMORE -- Even a red-hot Luke Scott couldn't save the Orioles from this one.
A night removed from a decisive two-run homer, Scott -- who has single-handedly kept Baltimore in the series -- blasted another two-run shot, but the O's couldn't overcome a sluggish start by rookie Brian Matusz, falling, 7-2, to the Twins on Saturday night.
With a crowd of 22,299 on hand at Camden Yards -- and amid sweltering temperatures -- Matusz labored through a 26-pitch first inning, walking the bases loaded and throwing just six of his first 20 pitches for strikes.
"It looked like he wasn't going to make it," interim manager Juan Samuel said of Matusz, who entered the game on the heels of two dismal starts, in which he allowed 10 earned runs over just 4 2/3 innings.
The Orioles had bullpen action one out into the game, and following a brief mound meeting by pitching coach Rick Kranitz -- who advised the youngster to relax and slow things down -- Matusz managed to wiggle free of a potentially big inning. After Delmon Young's sacrifice fly, which scored Denard Span, Matusz recorded a quick two outs to keep the Twins contained.
"I got ahead of myself and I was trying to win the game in the first inning," Matusz said. "I was overdoing it. After that first inning, I just relaxed myself and I felt really good."
The 23-year-old lefty allowed just two more runs -- both of which came on Young's two-run homer in the fifth -- and managed to salvage most of his start.
"It was pretty dicey early," said Kranitz, who has been working on keeping Matusz in more of a straight line to attack the zone better. "[Matusz] wasn't real aggressive, I thought he got himself in a real bind [in that first inning]. But he got through that and showed what kind of character he has."
Matusz, a one-time Rookie of the Year candidate, has had a rocky campaign. A victim of poor run support all season, his numbers have started to tail off considerably and reached a season-low with July 18's five-out, six-run stint. That outing prompted questions of Matusz's effectiveness and whether he would be sent down to Triple-A, like the O's have done with young starters like Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman. Whether that talk was on his mind early on, Matusz didn't say, but catcher Craig Tatum noticed a substantial shift in his confidence after he and Kranitz paid a visit.
"I just told him to quit worrying about all the other stuff and throw the ball through me and throw strikes, and he did," said Tatum, who exited in the seventh inning with a right hand contusion. "If his pitch count hadn't been so high in the first inning, he probably could have kept going."
Matusz's exit was followed by a trio of relievers who couldn't contain the Twins' lineup. Matt Albers and Michael Gonzalez each allowed a run and Jason Berken allowed two to help extend Minnesota's lead to five.
"We got some pitches up, gave up some two-out singles there," Samuel said of his overworked 'pen. "It hurt us."
And the only hurting the Orioles could reciprocate came from Scott. The designated hitter -- who came off the DL on Monday -- continued to provide most of the O's offense, belting his fourth homer and picking up his eighth RBI in six games. Scott was robbed of a homer in the second inning, with Twins center fielder Span perfectly timing the ball with a fantastic leaping catch for the first out. Two innings later, Scott guaranteed he'd make the round-trip trot, sending Twins starter Scott Baker's pitch 382 feet over the right-field wall for a two-run, go-ahead homer.
"Right now I'm in one of those zones where I'm just real comfortable at the dish," Scott said. "When I get a pitch to hit, I'm not missing it too often. "
Added Baker: "Good pitches to him are now average-pitcher's pitches. He's just seeing it that well right now. ... He's the guy in the lineup right now that we can't let him beat us."
Baker had no problem shutting down the rest of the O's, improving to a career 5-0 in seven starts against Baltimore. He entered Saturday's contest on significant skid, having allowed five earned runs or more in four of his previous five starts, but tossed seven innings of two-run ball -- allowing just four hits -- against the Orioles.
The loss drops the Orioles to a Major League-worst 31-66 and leaves them 2-7 heading into Sunday's series finale, which caps the final game of a 10-day homestand.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.