Matusz struggles again in O's loss to Athletics

It didn't seem so long ago when Brian Matusz was one of the exceptions, the rare Oriole consistently performing and giving fans hope during the second-worst start in team history.

But after yet another short and ineffective outing Wednesday night, Matusz has become the latest in a long line of Orioles giving team officials cause for concern. In the Orioles' 6-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics before an announced 19,153 at Camden Yards, Matusz allowed six earned runs and eight hits and was gone before he was able to get an out in the sixth inning.

He allowed four runs in the first and another in the second and didn't give the Orioles (15-32) much of a chance to clinch a series victory, which they'll try to Thursday in the third and final game of the series.

It was the third time in the past four starts that Matusz has allowed six earned runs or more and didn't make it through five innings. After 10 starts, he is 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA, not exactly the makings of an American League Rookie of the Year campaign.

In five May starts, Matusz is 0-4 with a 7.50 ERA, and he's now winless in his past seven starts after beating this same A's team on April 18 to improve to 2-0.

The Orioles didn't give him much help, managing only three hits against A's starter Trevor Cahill, who went six sharp innings, and two relievers who followed. Designated hitter Garrett Atkins provided the only run and the lone offensive highlight with a solo homer in the third inning, his first as an Oriole.

It was his first homer since Sept. 10 of last season, and it snapped his homerless stretch at 145 at-bats, one shy of his career high. A rare display of power for the much-maligned Atkins normally would be cause for celebration, but all it did is cut the A's lead to 5-1 after they jumped on Matusz in the first.   

It was the second straight start Matusz allowed a four-run first inning. Last Thursday in Texas, Matusz gave up an RBI single to Ian Kinsler and then a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz in the first. That set the tone for the worst start of his young career as he allowed a career high in runs (seven) and lasted only 2 1/3 innings, his shortest big-league outing.

After the game, Matusz said he had learned a lesson from the beating he absorbed by the Rangers, and would be better for it. However, the first two innings Wednesday night were awfully similar to his abbreviated outing in Texas.

A's center fielder Rajai Davis led off the game with a single and then moved to second on Daric Barton's sacrifice bunt. Davis stole third and then scored when Kurt Suzuki dumped a single into shallow center field.

Matusz then issued a walk to Kevin Kouzmanoff and after getting Ryan Sweeney to hit into a fielder's choice, he watched his 1-2, 92 mph fastball get turned around by Adam Rosales, who deposited it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.

At that point, Matusz had allowed 11 earned runs, 11 hits, three homers and two walks in his last 3 1/3 innings.

He quickly got the first two outs of the second inning before Davis singled, stole second base and moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' throwing error. Barton then gave Oakland a 5-0 lead with an infield single.

Matusz did eventually settle down for a couple of innings, retiring 10 straight at one point. His best inning was clearly his 15-pitch third, when he struck out both Kouzmanoff and Rosales and retired Sweeney on a soft liner to third baseman Miguel Tejada.

He also got five ground balls and a strikeout in retiring the sides in the fourth and the fifth, but he couldn't carry that momentum into the sixth. Kouzmanoff led off with a double to left field and then he moved to third on Sweeney's single. Rosales connected for a single, giving him a career-high tying four RBIs, the A's a 6-1 lead, and knocking Matusz out of the game.

Frank Mata relieved him and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut. He got out of the sixth when center fielder Adam Jones threw out Sweeney trying to score on Mark Ellis' fly ball. Wieters got Sweeney on a swipe tag but then quickly dropped down to his knees clutching his shoulder.

Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells rushed out of the dugout to look at the second-year catcher, who was able to stay in the game.

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