It doesn't matter who is in the other dugout, Brian Matusz approaches every start the same. A 23-year-old with unlimited confidence and an unwavering desire to compete, Matusz takes the mound every five days with the expectation that he's going to pitch a complete-game shutout.
And that's pretty much what it takes for one of the Orioles' starters to get a win these days.
Matusz turned in a quality start Thursday night against the New York Yankees, but that wasn't nearly enough with A.J. Burnett reducing the Orioles to a series of meek swings and weakly hit balls and Robinson Cano bashing ever pitch that he saw. Burnett allowed just three singles in eight shutout innings and Cano connected for two solo homers and a double in the Yankees 4-0 victory in front of an announced 26,439 at Camden Yards.
The loss dropped the Orioles to 4-18 on the season and 0-7 in series. They also are just 1-8 at home this season.
Matusz, who watched his six decision winning streak dating back to last year end, allowed three earned on nine hits over six innings. His biggest downfall was that he was matched up against a talented pitcher at the top of his game, and he had to face Cano, who went 8-for-13 in the three-game series with three homers and three RBIs.
In 84 career games against the Orioles, Cano has hit .340 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs.
ÃÂ Burnett, now 3-0 on the season and 5-0 in his career at Camden Yards, walked only one and permitted only two Orioles to reach scoring position. Before giving way to Mariano Rivera for the final three outs, Burnett finalized his outing by striking out on Adam Jones, who offered a half swing on a 92 mile an hour fastball.
The at-bat served as a microcosm for the night, along with the continued struggles of the Orioles offense. They were shut out for the second time this season and have been held to three runs or fewer for the 15th time in 22 games.ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ ÃÂ
Thursday night was just Matusz's 13th career start, and his signature outing so far came on Sept. 12 of last season at new Yankee Stadium. In just his eighth career start, Matusz held New York to one run on four hits and two walks while striking out there over seven innings of an Orioles' 7-3 victory.
The performance left an impression on the Yankees, who were headed to the playoffs and an eventual world championship.
"He pitched an outstanding game against us last year and he seems to have a lot of poise for a younger player," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before last night's game. "He came into Yankee Stadium when we were playing extremely well and he shut us down. Sometimes, it's hard as a young player dealing with the expectations, but he seemed to handle it pretty well."
Matusz entered Thursday night's start with a six decision winning streak, but he was certainly tested early. Derek Jeter led off the game with a single and then Mark Teixeira stroked a one-out double over the head of Orioles' left fielder Nolan Reimold. Alex Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track and the Yankees led 1-0.
They extended that lead to two runs in the fourth when the red-hot Cano drove Matusz's first-pitch curveball into the right-field seats for his seventh homer of the year. The Yankees had runners on the corners later in the inning, but Matusz got out of the jam by overpowering Brett Gardner on a high fastball.
Cano struck again in the sixth by smashing Matusz's first pitch off the wall in right field. Designated hitter Marcus Thames drove him home with a softly-hit but well-placed double to left, making the score 3-0.
Matusz, though, had so little margin of error with the ease that Burnett was tearing through the Orioles' lineup. Burnett retired the first five Orioles that he faced before giving up a two-out single to Ty Wigginton in the second.
Burnett gave up another two-out single, this one to Jones in the third, but he retiredÃÂ Nick Markakis to end the inning and start a stretch where he set down seven Orioles in succession, two of them by strikeout.
Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis, who entered the game with three consecutive multi-hit games, ended that stretch with a line single off the glove of Jeter in the sixth, and then Markakis drew a one-out walk. For the second time in the game, the Orioles had a runner in scoring position and for the first time, they had two men on base. However, the rally died as Matt Wieters grounded into a fielder's choice and Tejada lined out to moderately deep center field.
No Oriole would reach base off Burnett the rest of the way.