BALTIMORE - Triumphant isn't quite the right word to describe Brian Matusz's season debut Monday.
Laborious would work. So would inefficient or suspect or lackluster.
Matusz opened his new year in similar fashion to the way he ended the one he claims to have put out of his mind, falling victim to the patient New York Yankees in a 6-2 Baltimore Orioles loss before 25,478 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles' left-hander lasted just four innings, surrendering four runs on six hits and four walks as the Yankees (1-3) made him pay for his lack of control to earn win No. 1.
Dating back to his 0-9 finish to last year, Matusz (0-1) has dropped 10 decisions in a row. Matusz said he was trying to be too fine, but both he and manager Buck Showalter still expressed that it was a step forward from last year.
"A lot better, a completely different guy than last year," Matusz said. "I felt strong, I felt like I had a lot of zip behind the ball, just was up in the zone."
New York entered the night in danger of starting 0-4 for the first time since 1973 and just the fourth time in club history.
Instead, it was Baltimore (3-1) on the losing end for the first time this young season, in large part because Matusz halted the team's season-opening string of excellent starting pitching.
The Orioles' first three starters had each pitched at least seven innings and permitted one earned run or less.
Matusz couldn't keep the run going, unable to fully distance himself from a horrid 2011 when he posted the highest ERA (10.69) in history for a pitcher who made at least 10 starts.
But one encouraging sign was his velocity, which reached the low-to-mid 90s one year after so much attention was paid to his slowed fastball.
"His stuff is leaps and bounds better than last year," catcher Matt Wieters said after matching a career high with four hits. "That's the first step. He's just got to get back to pitching."
Matusz wasn't at his best from the beginning, when he threw 30 pitches in an ugly first inning, giving up one run on two hits and a walk. Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and the Orioles their first deficit of the year, with a sharp RBI single to right.
Wieters tied it at 1-1 by rocketing his second homer of the year to right with one out in the second while Matusz settled down to throw two scoreless frames.
But another rough inning from Matusz gave the Yankees control. In the fourth, the 26-year-old threw 32 pitches and walked three in letting the visitors score three times.
After inducing a groundout to start the frame, Matusz walked back-to-back batters and both scored on a Russell Martin RBI single and an Eduardo Nunez sacrifice fly to right. Derek Jeter then recorded his third hit, an RBI double to right, to improve to 11-for-22 lifetime against Matusz. Jeter finished 4-for-4.
After just four frames, Matusz's pitch count was up to 96 and his night was through. Showalter was still positive about the hurler's performance, citing that the Orioles were still in the game, down 4-1, when Matusz left.
"That probably wouldn't have happened last year and I think that's a tribute to his stuff," Showalter said. "He kept battling. I feel a lot better about that outing than I would have last year. I think you'll see better things from him."
New York added single runs in the sixth and seventh. Baltimore scored its final run on consecutive doubles by Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis in the seventh.
Even though Wieters went 4-for-4, finishing just a triple shy of the cycle, the Orioles couldn't make the most of a 13-hit night as they went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Ivan Nova (1-0) earned the win for the Yankees with two earned runs in seven innings after Matusz put Baltimore in an early hole and the team couldn't recover.
"Obviously, I'd like to go deeper in the game and give the team a chance to win," Matusz said. "So I'm not happy at all with today, but I'm on the right track to be where I need to be."