video thumbnail

BAL@ATL: Pearce lifts a sac fly to give O's a lead

ATLANTA -- Left-hander Brian Matusz was one out away from giving the Orioles a quality start in Friday night's series opener against the Braves. If he could just get Andrelton Simmons, the Braves' No. 8 hitter, to end the sixth inning, he could turn a one-run lead over to the best bullpen in baseball.

It wasn't to be. Matusz threw Simmons a 1-0 fastball and Simmons drove it into the left-field seats for a two-run home run that helped give the Braves a 4-2 win.

The Braves bullpen did its job and closed out the victory with three shutout innings. The loss ended the Orioles' five-game winning streak.

Matusz said he was frustrated he was unable to finish the sixth inning, especially after getting out of some jams earlier in the night.

"I was one good pitch away from getting out of that sixth and giving our team a chance to win," Matusz said. "But this is the big leagues -- make bad pitches and guys will hurt you. The Braves are a great hitting team and they took advantage of the mistakes today."

No mistake weighed larger in the minds of Matusz and catcher Matt Wieters than the pitch to Simmons. Matusz wanted to throw a fastball down and away to Simmons. Instead, it cut across the heart of the plate.

"I know he'd like to have that pitch back," Wieters said. "Looking back a changeup might have been the right pitch to throw there anyways."

While the Simmons home run weighed heavily on Matusz's mind, manager Buck Showalter was frustrated it came down to that. Baltimore had plenty of base runners early in the game, but was unable to come up with a clutch hit.

The Orioles went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and were unable to take advantage of the seven walks they drew, six of which came against Braves starter Tommy Hanson.

"I think the most disappointing thing here is we walked [seven] times and couldn't get anything across," Showalter said. "Probably the story was not taking advantage of all the opportunities we had."

The only runs the Orioles were able to score Friday were aided by two Braves errors in the fourth. To start the inning, Mark Reynolds reached on Simmons' error when the shortstop's throw sailed high. Wilson Betemit followed with a double that Bourn was unable to cleanly field in center field, allowing Reynolds to score and Betemit to reach third. Steve Pearce brought home Betemit with a sacrifice fly.

Otherwise, the Orioles were unable to take advantage of their opportunities. They grounded into four double plays, including one to end the game with pinch hitter Nick Johnson at the plate representing the tying run.

"Double-play balls, they happen," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Their pitcher threw a good pitch. He threw a sinker and got some double-play balls out of us. We did the same thing, they just got the big hit by Simmons and then they tacked on another one."

Jones, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, said he was disappointed the offense was unable to come through for Matusz.

"Matusz threw a hell of a game, a hell of a game," Jones said. "And it's frustrating we can't get him a win for that."

And until Simmons pounced on a fastball that caught too much of the plate, Matusz had pitched well enough to win. He had worked around giving up a solo home run to Brian McCann in the first inning and induced Chipper Jones to ground into a double play to escape a bases-loaded jam in the third inning.

But for the seventh time in 13 starts this season, Matusz was unable to pitch at least six innings. His inability to get out of the sixth inning with the Orioles' lead intact ate at him after the game.

"This one's tough to swallow," Matusz said. "I felt like I battled throughout the game making good pitches to get out of some jams. That sixth inning was tough.

"I made some good pitches today, but couldn't finish it, which is really frustrating. But I'm gonna get back at it."

MLB.com Comments