Orioles starter Brian Matusz has had plenty of time to try and figure out what went wrong in his last outing. He'll look to rebound from his shortest outing of the season after a few extra days of rest in tonight's opener of a three-game series between Baltimore and the hosting Atlanta Braves.
Matusz had won four of five starts, pitching at least six innings in the last four games of that stretch, before getting pummeled in Boston last Thursday. The left-hander lasted just two-plus innings and was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on four hits and five walks when all was said and done in a 7-0 defeat.
That forgettable outing came just one start after Matusz had held the Rays to one run over 7 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
"I know it is disappointing for him," manager Buck Showalter told Baltimore's website said of Matusz after the Boston outing. "It's hopefully a one-game setback. He'll get the ball again and he'll get an opportunity. It'll be a tough four days for him, because he knows he is better than that, but he knows that takes the wind out of our sails early in the game."
The loss dropped the 25-year-old under .500 for the season at 5-6 with a 4.82 earned run average through 12 starts. He was originally scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday against the Pirates, but a nasal contusion sustained on a bunt attempt during batting practice prompted the O's to push him back to tonight.
The Braves will start Tommy Hanson, who has pitched two excellent games since getting drilled for six runs over just 3 1/3 frames in a loss to the Cardinals on May 28.
Hanson has given up four runs over 15 innings in his two victories, hurling eight innings for the first time since May 10, 2010 in Saturday's win over the Blue Jays. The right-hander gave up two runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
"I threw well, there were a ton of good plays and it was a total team effort. That's got to be one of my favorite games I've ever played in," said Hanson, who is 7-4 with a 3.55 ERA through 13 starts this season.
The 25-year-old has faced the Orioles once before and that outing came in his second big-league start on June 12, 2009. It resulted in his first victory as he allowed two runs over 5 2/3 frames on nine hits and five walks.
Hanson will try to slow down an Orioles offense that set season highs in runs and hits (16) in Thursday's 12-6 victory over the Pirates to finish off a three-game sweep. The outburst resulted in Baltimore's season high-tying fifth straight victory and has the club a half-game behind the New York Yankees for the top spot in the American League East.
Former Pirate Steve Pearce torched his former club with his first homer of the season and a career-best five RBI, while Matt Wieters matched personal bests with four hits and five RBI. Mark Reynolds also homered as part of a four-hit game.
"Everyone is playing well on this team," said Pearce. "The starters have it going, the bullpen has been great, the hitters are alive. All those thing together and we're a tough ballclub to beat."
Tommy Hunter was the beneficiary of the support after allowing five runs in six innings.
While Baltimore is enjoying one of its longest winning streaks of the season, Atlanta has followed up a run of six straight victories with four setbacks in a row. The Braves offered the O's no help in the beginning of the week, getting swept in three games by the Yankees.
New York finished off the series with Wednesday's 3-2 win, going ahead for good with Curtis Granderson's two-run homer in the sixth.
The Braves stranded 13 runners on base, including one in both the eighth and ninth innings.
"It was frustrating this series. We felt like we had some opportunities, but they made some pitches and plays when they needed to to keep us from scoring and getting the big inning and add-on runs," Braves starter Tim Hudson said.
Brian McCann hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who now trail the Nationals by five games for first place in the National League East.
Atlanta took two of three encounters with Baltimore a year ago at Turner Field and has won 10 of the last 14 contests in the series.