Orioles fall back into all-too-familiar pattern in 4-0 loss to Yankees

April 29, 2010 | Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With Brian Matusz taking the hill with an opportunity to secure the club’s first series victory of the season Thursday night, the Orioles had to like their chances—at least as much as a 4-17 team possibly can when facing last season’s World Series champions.

That is, until A.J. Burnett took the mound for the New York Yankees. The Monkton resident was masterful over eight innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four as the Yankees won the rubber game of the three-game set, 4-0.

After providing 25 runs for Matusz in his first four starts of the season—nearly equaling the amount received by any other two starters combined—the bats fell quiet to the right arm of Burnett, who improved to 3-0 on the season.

Matusz didn’t pitch poorly but struggled to keep the ball down in the strike zone, allowing three runs and nine hits over six innings to suffer his first loss of the season. The Orioles were again victimized by second baseman Robinson Cano who homered twice and scored three of the four New York runs.

“That guy is swinging the bat so well,” Matusz said. “He’s a tough out. I have to make some adjustments the next time I face him.”

The problem for the Orioles was no one was swinging the bat well against Burnett who pounded the strike zone with mid-90s heat and a sharp breaking ball throughout the evening. It’s a pattern we’ve come to expect over the first month of the season as the Orioles will conclude April without a series win on its atrocious resume.

Even after winning two straight games—one against both the Red Sox and Yankees—and showing signs of life for the first time all season, the Orioles fell back into the predictable framework of decent starting pitching and anemic offense on Thursday night.

After falling behind early, you got the feeling the Orioles were resigned to the fact that they would come up short against Burnett and the Yankees.

“If we could’ve pulled another game out against them, it would’ve gotten us some momentum going into the next series [against Boston], but that’s the way it’s going right now,” said outfield Nolan Reimold. “You’ve just got to live with it.”

Not exactly the most inspiring words from a club desperate for some victories, but Reimold was one of the few willing to talk after Thurday’s loss.

Truthfully, what else is there to say at this point?

It’s the way it’s gone the entire month of April as the Orioles sit in last place with a 4-18 record and find themselves a staggering 13 games behind first-place Tampa Bay—on April 29.

The Orioles are “just living with” the fact that they’re the worst team in baseball, and no one—at least, publicly—among the players is standing up to demand improvement. They’re a defeated group taking a long look at the five months of potential misery lying ahead.

At 4-18, the Orioles are on pace to win just 29 games this season, a preposterous notion after nearly a month of baseball. The club will play better at some point, but haven’t we been saying that for weeks?

When will it end?

Adam Jones is hitting .204 and has a .228 on-base percentage. Not exactly setting the table at the top of the order.

Matt Wieters hasn’t hit a home run since Opening Night over three weeks ago.

Nolan Reimold is hitting .193.

Nick Markakis has four RBI.

Brian Roberts and Felix Pie are on the disabled list and won’t return any time soon.

A team supposedly building for the future has 35-year-old Miguel Tejada and 32-year-old Ty Wigginton as its most consistent (and only?) run producers as we prepare to leave April in the rear-view mirror and enter the second month of the season.

You just have to wonder how long the starting pitching will hold up before absolute frustration sets in—if it hasn’t already—with the utter lack of run support in April. For now, everyone’s saying the right things, but “talk is cheap” as the legendary Johnny Unitas once said.

“Our starters have gotten their fair share of quality starts, and we haven’t scored a lot of runs for them,” said manager Dave Trembley. “But they just need to keep doing their job and hope that the offense picks it up and we can score some runs and break through this.”

Otherwise, they’ll just have to live with it.

Like we all are.

Check out the final box score here and the pregame notes below.

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**I’ll be hosting tonight’s Orange Crush chat, so please join me at the cyber bar for a cold one and some baseball talk.**

BALTIMORE — Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (4-17) look to earn their first series win of the season in the finale of a three-game set against the New York Yankees (13-7).

Here are tonight’s lineups:

New York
SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
DH Marcus Thames
CF Curtis Granderson
C Francisco Cervelli
LF Brett Gardner

SP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 3.20 ERA)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
1B Rhyne Hughes
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brian Matusz (2-0, 4.38 ERA)

With Matusz taking the hill for his second career start against the Bronx Bombers, Dave Trembley and the Orioles hope he can approach the success he had in the final start of his 2009 campaign.

Pitching at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 12, Matusz pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run and four hits in a 7-3 victory. The young lefty was shut down for the remainder of the season following that effort and has clearly established himself as one of the best young pitchers in the American League early on in 2010.

While Matusz’s 4.38 ERA looks quite pedestrian, keep in mind the Orioles bullpen has allowed six of seven inherited runners to touch the plate following the 23-year-old’s departure in four starts. Matusz must certainly take responsibility for the runners he leaves on the bases, but you’d clearly like to see a higher success rate among the Orioles relievers.

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to Matusz’s first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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5:50 p.m. — As you can see with the lineup above, Adam Jones is once again in the leadoff spot despite a .202 average and .227 on-base percentage in the first month of 2010. Trembley continues to go with Jones in the No. 1 spot this series after trying Lou Montanez and Nolan Reimold in the top spot last week.

The Orioles manager insists Jones is his best option at the top of the order, but it’s very tough to justify keeping him there when he’s nearly been an automatic out when the lineup flips over. In 30 at-bats (granted, a small sample size), Jones is hitting just .133, walking once and striking out seven times.

Meanwhile, Nick Markakis (.379 OBP) and Cesar Izturis (.276 AVG) look like tempting short-term options as the Orioles continue to search for a suitable replacement for Roberts at the top of the order.

No easy task, to say the least.

5:35 p.m. — As we continue to track the progress and health of Brian Roberts, we learned the second baseman had an endoscopy today to determine the cause of the gastrointestinal discomfort. Trembley does not seem concerned with Roberts’ health, believing it’s a side effect of the medication he’s been taking for the herniated disc in his lower back.

Needless to say, it’s been a forgettable year for the All-Star second baseman who would badly like to be back in the Orioles lineup. When that will take place is anybody’s guess, but it’s not happening any time soon.

In other injury news, Koji Uehara made his second appearance for Double-A Bowie this morning, pitching one scoreless inning and walking one. The Japanese right-hander will now continue his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk and is scheduled to pitch on Saturday. Uehara is expected to pitch an inning out of the bullpen (he started both games in Bowie but threw only one inning) and will make a second appearance for the Tides before the organization decides he’s fit to be activated from the disabled list.

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