Matusz's woes continue as O's drop finale

Matusz's woes continue as O's drop finale

Matusz's woes continue as O's drop finale
BALTIMORE -- As his teammates were gathering their personal effects, quickly packing in preparation for a six-hour flight to Seattle, Brian Matusz was in the midst of a 17-minute meeting in manager Buck Showalter's office.

Matusz's suitcase and duffle bag sat untouched a few feet from his locker, long after most of his teammates had readied for the coast-to-coast flight.

When Matusz finally emerged from the office, he knew he would no longer need them. While the Orioles fly off to Seattle, Matusz will be heading to Triple-A Norfolk.

"In my last five, six outings, [I] just haven't been getting the job done," Matusz said. "Today, [I] was just really inconsistent. I had some signs of good pitches, [but I] just haven't been putting it together. It's killing the bullpen. It's making it tough, so moves have to be made. I have to go down and get better."

Continuing a stretch of poor outings, Matusz allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks in four-plus innings on Sunday as the Orioles dropped the finale of a weekend series at Camden Yards, 6-2, to the Indians.

The O's have lost nine of their last 12 -- including a 3-6 mark in the final homestand before the All-Star break. Baltimore is now only six games over .500, tying its lowest margin since April 30.

Jim Thome went 0-for-4 in his Orioles debut and Adam Jones validated his All-Star selection with an RBI double and a run scored. But Sunday was all about Matusz.

The left-hander took the loss for a fifth consecutive start, a stretch dating back to June 7 during which he has pitched to an 8.44 ERA. He hasn't recorded an out in the sixth inning in any of his last five outings, giving up 40 hits and 13 walks over that span for a 2.48 WHIP.

"Outings like that, you can withstand them here and there," Showalter said. "But when you consistently have two or three days like that, it's, I don't want to say an energy-sapper, but it kind of gets back to what makes you struggle as a team. It takes you away from getting in any flow."

For Matusz, an inability to get in a flow has been the biggest key to his struggles.

The talent and stuff that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft is there -- and it helped him to a 4.37 ERA in his first two Major League seasons.

But Matusz has fallen off sharply from there. In 2011, he posted a 10.69 ERA that was the highest in history for a Major League pitcher with at least 10 starts. So far in 2012, he is 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA.

"It's about being consistent," Matusz said. "I know the stuff's there. I've had good outings. I'm just not putting it together."

"Brian's had it at times, and hopefully he will again," Showalter said.

An inability to consistently command his fastball and keep pitches down in the zone has created frustration for Matusz.

"Right now, my confidence isn't there because I haven't been winning ball games," Matusz said.

"He's certainly got those emotions inside," Showalter said. "He's human. He understands what this team needs, and [he's] part of the reason why we've had some success early in the season and why we're not now."

The strong starting rotation that helped the Orioles race out to first place in the American League East has looked feeble during the last week.

Over the past six games, a streak spanning two Matusz starts, O's starters have pitched to an 11.42 ERA, allowing 48 hits and nine home runs in only 26 innings.

"Without stating the obvious, what's going on is not good enough," Showalter said. "It's not good enough."

Miguel Gonzalez, called up from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Sunday's game, allowed only one run on four hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. But executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Gonzalez is not under consideration for a starting job.

Instead, the O's will consider Minor League options Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, with Duquette saying the team will promote a pitcher from within the organization.

Only time will tell whether that pitcher sticks in the rotation or eventually gives way to an improved Matusz.

"Consistency is what you're looking for, and that's what we need," Duquette said. "I believe that Brian can pitch better. With a couple adjustments that we can help him make at Triple-A, we should be able to get him back on track."

Greg Luca is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.