BALTIMORE — An Orioles team that has been an easy mark for numerous teams for much of the 2010 season continued to give the Red Sox fits on Tuesday night. Just hours after Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that his team needed to get “really hot” in order to stoke the embers of its flickering playoff hopes, Boston fell flat in Baltimore against an increasingly familiar nemesis.
Young left-hander Brian Matusz owns a 7-12 record and 4.72 ERA on the year, but he has overmatched the Sox in his brief career. Matusz stifled the Sox lineup in the Orioles’ 5-2 victory. In four starts against the Sox this year, he is now 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA after allowing two runs in six innings. He struck out six and walked just one.
The Sox’ third straight loss left them eight games behind the Yankees in the division and seven behind the Rays in the wild card.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–The effect of Marco Scutaro‘s physical issues on his ability to throw a baseball were apparent, and costly. In the bottom of the first inning, he fielded a grounder in the hole by Ty Wigginton, but did not bother to throw to first to try to catch the lumbering runner.
More costly, with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the third, Scutaro fielded a soft grounder, double pumped and then fired towards second with an awkward submarine motion. The throw sailed wide of the bag, heading down the right-field line and allowing both baserunners to score. Scutaro pulled his glove off his left hand and feigned throwing it to the turf.
–The Sox offense has disappeared. For the fifth straight game, the Sox scored three or fewer runs, the team’s longest such streak of futility since a six-gamer in July 2009.
–David Ortiz and J.D. Drew saw their hellacious struggles against Matusz deepen. The two went a combined 0-for-5 with five strikeouts against the Orioles southpaw. Ortiz is now 0-for-9 with eight punchouts against Matusz, while Drew is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. When Drew walked against Matusz to lead off the seventh, it represented a minor triumph for the duo.
–Felix Doubront, against whom left-handed hitters were 5-for-35 without a single homer this year, got touched for longballs by left-handers Luke Scott and Felix Pie in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving Baltimore insurance runs that all but snuffed out any hope of a comeback.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Josh Beckett turned in his strongest outing in four weeks. The right-hander allowed three runs, just two earned, in his seven innings of work, and of the seven hits he allowed, two were infield singles and two were broken-bat flairs. But for Scutaro’s gaffe, he easily could have finished the night with just one run allowed.
Beckett was more aggressive using his secondary pitches early in counts, throwing his curveball at the start of at-bats to keep the Orioles honest. The approach had an unsettling effect on the O’s, allowing Beckett to snap a streak of five straight starts in which he’d allowed a homer, and resulting in his lowest earned-runs yield since Aug. 3.
–Jed Lowrie gave the Sox an offensive spark at a time when the lineup appeared moribund. With the Sox down, 3-0, in the top of the fifth, he smoked a 388-foot homer to left field off of Matusz for a two-run homer that put the Sox back in the game. Lowrie, who also singled, is now hitting .287 with a .912 OPS and a career-high four homers.
–For the first time since undergoing surgery to remove the cavernous malformation of his brain stem, prospect Ryan Westmoreland was in uniform for a game, joining the Lowell Spinners to continue his rehab. For more on the progress of a player who was rated the top prospect in the Sox system entering 2010, click here.