O's win streak snapped as Matusz struggles

O's win streak snapped as Matusz struggles

O's win streak snapped as Matusz struggles
BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a memorable first month for a Baltimore club off to its best start in seven seasons, Monday night's 14-3 loss was one the Orioles would like to forget as soon as possible.

Fresh off five straight wins during a six-game road trip through New York and Boston, which culminated with Sunday's 9-6 win -- a six-hour-plus, 17-inning affair -- the Orioles slogged through their series-opening loss to the Texas Rangers in front of 11,938 at Camden Yards.

Orioles starter Brian Matusz -- coming off his best start since 2010 -- turned in his worst outing of the season, continuing what has been an uneven 2012 as the 25-year-old lefty is, by all accounts, still searching to consistently find his old form. Matusz allowed the Rangers to jump out to a seven-run lead that -- aside from a stellar Major League debut from pitcher Stu Pomeranz -- underscored the Orioles' lackluster performance in the opening contest of a nine-game homestand.

Asked if there might have been a carryover effect for his club -- which enlisted infielder Chris Davis to pitch two innings, earning the win in Sunday's game -- manager Buck Showalter wouldn't go down that road.

"I know that's a real easy area to go down, but I don't think anybody in our locker room would," Showalter said. "It's part of what we do for a living. You get thrown some self-inflicted things that you have to deal with, and nobody's going to feel sorry for you."

Particularly not these Orioles, who are tied for first place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays and are in a three-way tie -- along with Texas -- for the best record in the AL. Baltimore took just its third loss in 14 games on Monday night but looked lethargic in absorbing its most lopsided loss of the season.

"They're doing well and we're doing well," said Texas third baseman Brandon Snyder, who was dealt from the Orioles for cash considerations this past offseason and went 3-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs in his first game against Baltimore. "It's not about guys who used to be Orioles and are now Rangers, or guys who used to be Rangers and are now Orioles. It's just about playing good baseball."

The Rangers were the only ones who succeeded at that on Monday, teeing off against Matusz almost immediately. The 25-year-old Matusz picked up his first win since June last Tuesday night in New York, snapping what had been the longest active losing streak in the Majors and handing Showalter his 1,000th career managerial victory in the process. But Matusz couldn't build on that momentum, surrendering 10 hits and seven earned runs -- both season highs -- including a three-run homer to Snyder that chased Matusz from the game after five-plus innings.

"I just never got in a good rhythm," Matusz said of the 103-pitch outing. "[I was] getting behind guys all game, flying open on pitches and leaving some breaking balls out over the plate."

On the heels of Sunday's win, the Orioles -- who brought in a pair of arms and optioned starter Tommy Hunter to Triple-A Norfolk before Monday's game to keep their bullpen fresh -- desperately needed a long outing from Matusz. But the left-hander struggled all night, working deep counts and delivering just one clean inning -- the fifth -- before handing the ball to Pomeranz. Matusz's ERA rose from 4.67 to 5.91, prompting more concern regarding his effectiveness this season.

"Our pitchers aren't machines," second baseman Robert Andino said of an Orioles staff that has, by and large, carried the team through its hot streak. "It's a grind. You are going to have your ups and downs, but we'll come back out tomorrow and play again. You can't stress one game."

It was Andino who finally got the Orioles on the board, delivering a two-out solo homer in the sixth off starter Matt Harrison, who entered the game 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA. Andino's knock, his second in as many games, was followed by Wilson Betemit's two-run blast in the following frame, and Harrison -- working with a lead from the second inning on -- exited after seven.

"Yeah, it was tough, but we didn't give up," shortstop J.J. Hardy, who went 3-for-4, said of facing an early deficit. "It's not like they got seven runs and we're like, 'They won.' We still had some innings left. But yeah, it makes it tougher."

Pomeranz, whose contract was selected prior to the game, held down Texas' lethal lineup and temporarily kept things from getting out of hand. The 27-year-old right-hander tossed three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out two.

But the Rangers piled on with seven runs in the ninth, capitalizing on Mark Reynolds' throwing error -- his sixth this season -- to score five unearned runs off reliever Jason Berken. Berken, who allowed six hits and a walk, was charged with two earned runs.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.