The only things falling as of late have been the Orioles' batting averages, as the team's offensive woes can be traced back further than the series-sweeping loss and the pair of dazzling outings from Mets starters Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey, to before the team plane even touched down in New York. The O's (39-30) had a 28-inning scoreless streak snapped -- a stretch that extended from the sixth inning Sunday to Wilson Betemit's two-run homer in the eighth Wednesday, but Betemit's blast remains the only hit in the team's last 38 innings that scored a run.
"It felt good," Betemit said of getting the O's on the board with a two-run shot off Mets starter Dillon Gee. "But, I mean, we lost. I would have felt better [hitting the homer] if we won."
And they nearly did, thanks to a mini-meltdown from closer Frank Francisco, who allowed a pair of one-out singles to Matt Wieters and Nick Johnson before issuing a pair of walks to pull Baltimore within one. But Francisco buckled down and got Brian Roberts to ground out to second base, ending a series in which Baltimore had 12 hits and eight walks over 27 innings.
It's a far cry from a lineup that stormed out of the gate, leading the Majors in home runs and more recently posting a six-start stretch starting June 8, in which they scored five or more runs, including a 12-run drubbing of the Pirates. Dickey, Santana and Gee combined to post an 0.81 series ERA, leaving the Orioles 2-4 on the two-city road trip, 2 1/2 games back of the Yankees in the American League East.
Were the Mets pitchers simply that good, or were the O's, who hit .159 on the six-game trip, to blame?
"Both," Jones said. "You've got to tip your cap. Whatever scouting report they have, they followed it to a T. They had us off balanced."
"I don't want to take anything away from Gee tonight, he was pretty good," added Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. "It's a great park for defense and pitching and they did that well."
While Gee cruised through 7 1/3 innings -- allowing only Betemit's two-run homer -- Orioles starter Brian Matusz ran up a high pitch count and lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Matusz didn't pitch poorly, but a combination of some soft hits and suspect defense helped give way to an early exit on a night where temperatures hovered in the mid-90s.
"We did some things that caused him to throw more pitches than he should have to," Showalter said of Matusz, who was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks (one intentional) in the 93-pitch outing.
In the fourth, the 25-year-old lefty gave up a leadoff double to Scott Hairston, and after issuing a two-out walk to Justin Turner, Mike Nickeas' slicing liner bounced out of the glove of a diving Jones for the Mets' first run. New York put a pair on base with one out in the fifth, with an infield single and a blooper, before Hairston sent a ball deep to left field for an RBI double. After intentionally walking Vinny Rottino, Matusz exited after another run scored on Ike Davis' fielder's choice.
"It was just one of those situations, playing the NL, Buck's got to play it smart," Matusz said of his hook, which resulted in a double-switch. "For me, I'd like to be able to go deep in games, and that's what's frustrating today. But I made some good pitches today when I needed to. I just need to get better."
Matusz recorded his first career hit in the third, which was the O's lone hit until Nick Johnson -- who scored off Betemit's homer -- singled in the eighth. Baltimore entered the game without a homer in five games -- its longest stretch since Aug. 4-11, 1992 -- until Betemit went deep for the ninth time this year.
Betemit's two-run long ball briefly sparked the O's, with Steve Pearce working a one-out walk to chase Gee and Roberts putting the tying run aboard with a single. But J.J. Hardy was ruled out after the ball hit his bat twice in fair territory, and Showalter came out to briefly argue the call with home-plate umpire Tim Timmons.
"It's pretty obvious what happened compared to what he saw," said Showalter, who countered that the ball was foul. "But that didn't beat us. It hit him in the box and hit him outside the box, it hit him twice. I think it's pretty obvious."
Following Hardy, Chris Davis flied out to the warning track in left to end the threat.