TORONTO — Brian Matusz didn’t dodge the details following the Orioles’ 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon.
The Orioles’ 25-year-old left-hander, saddled with the game’s longest active losing streak as well as the shadows of a lost 2011 season, was openly honest in admitting his increasing frustration.
He wanted to shut the door on what could have been the Orioles’ first three-game sweep in Toronto since 2005. He wanted to beat a Blue Jays team he had pitched to an 18.56 ERA against. He wanted to put his shaky 2012 debut against the Yankees in the rear view.
But following another loss — his 11th straight, the longest active streak in the majors — the usually reserved Matusz unleashed his displeasure.
“Coming out with two straight wins against Toronto, I wanted to come out and get the sweep today,” Matusz said. “This is so frustrating, you know. I know what went on last year, I know it was a horrible year and so far I’m off to a horrible start at 0-2. And it’s building up. And it’s frustrating, and it’s flat out not getting the job done.”
Despite battling control problems from the beginning — he issued four walks — and allowing leadoff runners on base in five of his six innings, Matusz went into the sixth inning ahead 2-1, aided in part by three double-play balls.
But that promising start quickly changed later that inning. Matusz got ahead of Jose Bautista 0-2, but the Blue Jays slugger laced a ball into the left-center-field gap for a double. He worked ahead of the next hitter, cleanup man Edwin Encarnacion before leaving a 1-2 slider up in the zone — a pitch Matusz later called “horrible.” Encarnacion capitalized, hitting a two-run homer to left that gave the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t give up.
“I’ve got to get that ball down and make better pitches,” Matusz said. “At times, I didn’t make the quality pitch to finish it. [I] just flat out didn’t get the job done today.”
That would be just the beginning of a seven-run sixth inning for the Blue Jays. It was an inning that saw Matusz chased from the game and reliever Kevin Gregg struggle tremendously in relief.
“It’s tough because we were in that game all the way through and to see the lead slip away like that, it definitely hurts,” Matusz said. “Going into the sixth inning with a one-run lead, we had the momentum going and they jumped right back on top with a big inning. Things like that can’t happen. We are too good of a team to let that happen.”
Matusz left a 3-2 game with two outs in the sixth, but Gregg struggled to get that final out. Of the first five Toronto batters he faced, he allowed two doubles, a single and two walks. The Blue Jays scored five more runs that inning with Gregg on the mound, including two inherited runners credited to Matusz.
Matusz’s line — 5 2/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, four walks and four strikeouts — was unremarkable. And in two starts this season, Matusz owns an 8.38 ERA and has allowed 13 hits and nine runs with eight walks and five strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.
“[He’s] still not quite where it’s going to be or needs to be,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He had some counts where he couldn’t quite put guys away. But I thought he was better. [He] gave us a chance to win. If we had gotten a little relief work there we probably would have had a chance to win that game.”
Showalter wasn’t nearly as critical of Matusz, saying the lefty had pitched better than last year’s horrendous 2011 season (1-9, 10.69 ERA). The Orioles manager said he will keep placing Matusz on the mound for now.
“There’s no way to handicap, you don’t know,” Showalter said. “It’s a challenging place at this level. You can’t hide. You can’t hide the ability to do something here. If you’re good enough it’s going to show up. If you’re not, there’s no Cinderella’s here. It’ll show up if you’re not. So all of your curiosity and ours too a little bit is all going to be satisfied. [We’ll] keep running him out there and we’ll see.
“I don’t think it’s an open-ended [ticket]. It’s a competitive place. And so far, so good. It’s better than the way it ended last year, but he knows there’s another level he’s capable of. And for us to get to where we want to go, he’s going to have to be a part of that.”
The other sub-plot was Gregg, who was booed by his former home crowd when he was introduced here at the Rogers Centre.
Gregg, formerly the Orioles’ closer, has struggled to find his comfort zone in a new role. His sixth-inning appearance was his earliest in the game in nearly five years (April 29, 2007).
Coming in with runners on first and second, Gregg allowed a single to No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis. Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson then hit back-to-back doubles, and Gregg walked Bautista and Encarnacion before getting out of the inning.
The seven runs the Orioles allowed in the seventh Sunday were more than the club had previously allowed in an entire game this season.
“When I’m being used is something I have to deal with,” Gregg said. “The bottom line is getting people out and whatever situation they put you in. Is it a familiar situation? No, it’s not. It’s something I’ll have to get used to as I go through it.
“I have to be ready. That’s the whole idea of being a reliever. You have to be ready for any situation.”
The Orioles (5-4) took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning on Adam Jones’ solo homer to left, a monster shot that hit off the electronic advertisement board above the second level of seating. First baseman Chris Davis had his second straight three-hit day, including two doubles.
Inside the Orioles clubhouse, the team took little solace in the idea that they won their first series in Toronto since 2008. But their three-city, 10-game road trip will leave little time for a hangover as the Orioles headed to Chicago to open a four-game series against the White Sox on Monday.
“We wanted this sweep, we needed this sweep,” Jones said. “It’s still awesome winning a series here since we hadn’t won one since ’08, but if you get two, you want the three. You want to stomp on their throats. We were unable to do it. Still saying that, we were happy we won a series up here. It’s been four years. So we build on that and go to Chicago and be ready tomorrow.”