By the end of Tuesday night, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had reached the 1,000-win milestone, left-hander Brian Matusz had sidestepped club infamy and designated hitter Nick Johnson had finally exhaled in a 7-1 victory over the New York Yankees.
It was literally a time for popping the champagne corks and offering a toast -- which was done in the visitors' clubhouse after the game as a tribute to Showalter, who became the 58th big league manager to win 1,000 games in his career. He earned it in the same town where he got his first -- on April 7, 1992, when he debuted as Yankees manager.
"It's kind of embarrassing, quite frankly. I don't make any bones about it. I love baseball players, and it's been an honor to manage this long, with so many good people -- general managers and owners and people who give you an opportunity," said Showalter, 55, who has managed four teams in 14 big league seasons. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the focus being off it a little, but I'm very appreciative of the players. They made me feel very young tonight, even though I'm an old goat."
When the game ended, the players all gathered at home plate on the urging of first base coach Wayne Kirby and waited for Showalter to reluctantly arrive. He was encircled by his players, received some hugs and some head rubs, as if he had just hit a walk-off homer.
"Buck wanted no part of it. He didn't want all of the attention; he was like, 'Let's go, let's go,'" shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "We finally got him in the middle of the circle, and it was a pretty cool moment. We also got him in the clubhouse here with a little champagne toast, and also a fun moment."
The other celebrations Tuesday were more about relief than milestones.
Matusz, the club's beleaguered 25-year-old left-hander, had lost 12 straight decisions -- the longest active skid in the majors -- before picking up Tuesday's win with 61/3 strong innings. It was his first since June 6, 2011. One more defeat and Matusz would have tied Mike Boddicker (from September 1987 to May 1988) for most consecutive losses in club history.
"It's nice to be able to get that win and kind of get out of that losing drought," said Matusz (1-3). "And put that in the past and move forward and not hear about that."
Johnson, the 33-year-old veteran and .286 career hitter before the season, entered Tuesday on an 0-26 skid to begin his Orioles career, worst for any position player in club history. He extended his record to 0-for-29 before hitting a double into the right-field corner in the eighth against Rafael Soriano.
"It's been tough. But you've got to keep working, try to get good pitches to hit," Johnson said. "You go through things like that, sort of think too much. It kind of gets in your head and you think too much at the plate instead of going up there getting a pitch and do what you do."
The Orioles (15-9) also broke their own mini skid, with their first win against the Yankees (13-10) in five tries this year. It allowed them to hold on to second place in the American League East, one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's tough winning here in New York. They have great fans, and obviously, New York is a great team," Matusz said, adding that the victory gave the Orioles "a little bit of momentum going into tomorrow."
Matusz ended his personal nightmare in impressive fashion. He allowed just one run -- a solo homer in the first inning by Curtis Granderson that came close to landing in the third deck -- on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. It was Matusz's longest start and first road win since throwing seven innings against at Tampa Bay on Sept. 27, 2010.
"I'm feeling like I'm getting better and better, being able to make those pitches and get out of an inning and not letting things escalate," Matusz said. "It feels good to be able to go out there and attack the zone with confidence, to be able to come away with it."
He struck out four batters and walked just one, which didn't come until the second-to-last Yankee he faced in the seventh. Sidearmer Darren O'Day made sure the runner he inherited from Matusz didn't score by getting Alex Rodriguez to pop up to catcher Matt Wieters with the bases loaded in the seventh. The announced crowd of 37,790 booed Rodriguez and the Yankees as the inning ended.
"I am so proud of him. He pitched really well," Showalter said of Matusz. "A lot of guys would have pulled the dirt in around him after the home run from Granderson. Boy, he pitched well."
Johnson also lauded the young left-hander. Johnson felt like he cost Matusz a win in his last start Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays when he made a key error.
"He's been pitching well, and he should have had that win last time and I [messed] up that ball. And he is throwing so well, you never want to make errors," Johnson said. "So this is awesome for him, and I'm extremely happy for Buck. Not a lot of people have [gotten 1,000 wins], so I couldn't be happier for him."
Johnson nearly broke his slump in the Orioles' three-run sixth when he hit a sinking liner to left that Eduardo Nunez rushed toward, then misplayed. Nunez was charged with an error -- and Johnson a hitless at-bat -- but two runs did score on the play to give the club more breathing room. Before his double, Johnson had been just seven hitless at-bats away from tying pitcher Wes Stock, who was 0-for-36 in an Orioles career that spanned from 1959 to 1964.
It was Johnson's first hit since May 5, 2010 -- which also came at Yankee Stadium, but was against Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon while Johnson was in pinstripes.
"I think our team was as happy about that as anything that happened tonight because he's so well respected in our clubhouse, the professional that he is, and the great spring he had," Showalter said of Johnson. "Who knows, he may not make an out for a while. And he takes it well, but you know there have been some sleepless nights for him."
The Orioles' big night was aided by early homers from Chris Davis (a solo shot, his fifth, in the second) and Hardy (a two-run homer, his fourth, in the third) against Phil Hughes (1-4).
But, in the end, the evening belonged to Showalter, who admitted he was a little emotional after trying to deflect the attention and attempting to focus on Wednesday night's rubber match in the Bronx.
"I'm an old fuddy-duddy. There's not a day that goes by that something about this game doesn't tug at my emotions," Showalter said. "You can't play this game without emotion. It just lends to not wearing it on your sleeve, unfortunately. But I certainly have my moments. I'll move on."
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