Published November 20, 2014
Brian Matusz found his latest sixth-inning troubles to be more painful than most.
Matusz couldn't hold a one-run lead in the sixth as he gave up three runs in that inning, including a go-ahead two-run homer to rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons, and the Orioles' five-game winning streak came to an end with Friday night's 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Matusz, 25, has had difficulty pitching deep into games. Before throwing 116 pitches Friday night, his high pitch count for the season was 106. The homer to Simmons came on his 105th pitch.
"Got to be able to finish the sixth inning," Matusz said. "That's something I've struggled with at times this year. Got two outs and wasn't able to get it done, which is really frustrating."
Matusz (5-7) fell to 0-6 in seven career interleague starts. He gave up four runs, nine hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings.
"I was one good pitch away from getting out of that sixth," Matusz said.
"This one's tough to swallow. I felt like I battled throughout the game, making some good pitches to get out of some jams. That sixth inning was tough, getting two outs and then leaving the ball over the plate, giving up the home run and not being able to close out the inning."
The Orioles scored two runs in the fourth to lead 2-1.
Simmons' homer, which barely cleared the wall in left, drove in Matt Diaz, who singled, to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter left Matusz in the game as pinch-hitter Jack Wilson followed with a triple to center and he scored on Michael Bourn's soft single up the middle.
"I thought he deserved an opportunity there," Showalter said. "That's part of the learning process for young pitchers.
"I think Brian will learn from it. He made some good pitches and some he didn't get away with."
The Orioles fell 1 ½ games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East. New York beat Washington 7-2.
The Orioles hit into four double plays to boost their total to 72, the most in the major leagues. Matt Wieters' grounder to Simmons with the bases loaded in the third started an inning-ending double play. Pinch-hitter Nick Johnson hit into a double play to end the game.
"I think the most disappointing thing is we walked (seven) times and couldn't get anything across," Showalter said.
"I thought the story was not taking advantage of all the opportunities that we had. And we hit into some hard luck, too."
Brian McCann's first-inning homer off Matusz gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
Chad Durbin (3-0) struck out the two batters he faced after taking over for Hanson in the sixth.
The Braves snapped a four-game losing streak.
Kris Medlen, recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett before the game, gave up one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings to set up closer Craig Kimbrel, who pitched the ninth for his 19th save.
Hanson showed his frequent disagreement with home plate umpire Derryl Cousins' strike zone as he set a career-high with six walks in 5 1-3 innings.
Hanson gave up four hits and two unearned runs. He was pulled after consecutive walks in the sixth. He took a look at Cousins as he walked off the field.
The Braves made several strong defensive plays in the game, but the defense let Hanson down with two errors in the fourth. Simmons threw high to first after fielding Mark Reynolds' grounder. Reynolds scored as Bourn bobbled Wilson Betemit's double in center, allowing Reynolds to score from first and Betemit to advance to third. It also was Bourn's first error.
Betemit scored, barely beating right fielder Jason Heyward's throw to the plate, on Steve Pearce's fly ball.
"After I made the error, I felt like it cost us two runs," Simmons said. "I was trying to make it up to the team and to Tommy.
"You try not to try too hard, but it's in the back of your head. You try to cover your mistakes."
Betemit, who began his career with the Braves, had two hits.
Chris Davis, normally a first baseman or designated hitter, made his first career start in right field for Baltimore. He made a tumbling catch near the foul line on Chipper Jones' sinking liner in the sixth.
With Freddie Freeman still bothered by a sore left index finger and thumb, Atlanta's Martin Prado made his first start of the season at first base.
NOTES: The Braves designated RHP Livan Hernandez for assignment. Hernandez, 37, gave up seven hits and five runs in 1 2-3 innings against Toronto on Sunday. He was 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA and one save. ... Orioles OF Nolan Reimold, who has been on the DL since May 4 with a herniated disc in his neck, will see a neurosurgeon in Baltimore. Showalter said he expects a report Monday. .... Hanson's strikeout of Wieters in the sixth was the 500th of his career. ... Brandon Beachy, who leads the majors with a 1.98 ERA, will face Baltimore's Jason Hammel on Saturday night.