Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five-run eighth, three-run HR in 10th propel Rays past O's

In case you hadn't heard, the Orioles haven't exactly started the season on a torrid pace. The O's, 1-6 after seven games, decided to wear their batting practice jerseys to try to shake things up. Dave Trembley even juggled the lineup, moving Matt Wieters to the cleanup spot, Miguel Tejada second, and Adam Jones fifth.

And through seven innings, it seemed like some of that change was working. The O's held a 3-0 lead, which wasn't huge, but was much better than some of the leads they had worked with lately. Oh, and Brian Matusz was throwing an absolute gem. In those seven innings, Matusz allowed just three baserunners -- a walk to B.J. Upton in the second, a bunt single by Ben Zobrist in the fourth, and an infield hit to Carlos Pena in the seventh -- and that's it. He had also struck out seven Rays. Very simply, he was cruising.

Then in the eighth, things went horribly wrong. After striking out Willy Aybar to begin the inning, Matusz allowed four consecutive singles and one run and was removed from the game with a pitch count of 99. With just one out and the bases still loaded, Jim Johnson came in to face Zobrist and got him to pop out. Unfortunately, Evan Longoria was up next, and he hit a sharp single to left field, scoring two runs to tie the game, 3-3. Will Ohman relieved Johnson to face Pena, who reached on an infield single that plated another run for the Rays. On that hit, Cesar Izturis made a fantastic diving stop, but his throw to first was a little short and Garrett Atkins couldn't scoop the ball. And if that wasn't enough, Upton followed with a double off the scoreboard in right field, giving the Rays a 5-3 lead.

After that offensive assault was over, Matusz's fantastic start was ruined, and he was charged with four earned runs. Nevertheless, Matusz looked flat-out dominant through seven and gave O's fans a glimpse of how good he can be. In 7.1 innings pitched, he struck out eight and walked one.

Down 5-3, though, the O's weren't ready to throw in the towel. With two outs and a runner on first (Atkins after a walk), Luke Scott pinch-hit for Izturis and hit a line-drive home run to right field off of Randy Choate to tie the game.

After a scoreless ninth inning for both sides, Matt Albers entered the game for the Orioles and proceeded to walk Zobrist and Longoria. Albers then gave up a three-run homer to Pena, which put the Rays up 8-5 and gave them the lead for good. Ty Wigginton hit a solo homer in the bottom of the tenth -- his second of the game -- to cut the lead to two, but the O's didn't have another rally in them and dropped to 1-7 after the 8-6 loss.

On offense, the Orioles actually managed to score a few runs and collected 11 hits and two walks. Wigginton went 2-5 with those two home runs and three runs batted in, and Felix Pie had his second solid game in a row by going 3-5. Nick Markakis also had two hits.

The Orioles have now lost five in a row -- all at home, where they're still winless.

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