Matusz making it matter today (O’s win 2-1)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Has Brian Matusz become the Orioles’ ace?

Too soon?

Matusz is headed toward his fourth consecutive quality start, holding Tampa Bay to one run and two hits today over a season-high seven innings. He’s walked two and struck out seven.

Only one Tampa Bay batter has reached second base, when Sean Rodriguez doubled to lead off the fifth inning and later scored on Drew Sutton’s ground ball.

B.J. Upton walked with one out in the sixth inning, broke too soon for second and was thrown out. Ben Zobrist followed with a single, but Luke Scott grounded out.

Matusz has retired four straight since Zobrist reached, striking out Sutton to end the seventh. Matusz needs two more strikeouts to match his season high.

Matusz has thrown 85 pitches through the seventh. Nobody is warming in the Orioles’ bullpen, so he’s coming back out for the eighth.

In his last four starts, Matusz has allowed eight earned runs (nine total) and 18 hits in 25 1/3 innings, with seven walks and 23 strikeouts.

Sutton enabled the Orioles to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh with his two-out throwing error.

Update: The Orioles pulled off the great escape in the eighth.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases with one out on Mark Reynolds’ error - his seventh this year and first at first base - and two walks. Matusz exited after walking Carlos Pena. Pedro Strop threw a wild pitch and walked B.J. Upton.

Ben Zobrist grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, allowing the Orioles to maintain a 2-1 lead.

J.J. Hardy made a nice grab of Robert Andino’s throw, which was low and tailing away from him. Not every shortstop makes that play.

Matusz’s line: 7 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts. 97 pitches, 64 strikes.

That’s four quality starts in a row for Matusz, who is looking for his fifth win in his last seven outings. His ERA is down to 4.41.

Dylan Bundy allowed one run and three hits in five innings today with Single-A Frederick. He walked one and struck out seven.

Update II: Jim Johnson retired the Rays in order in the bottom of the ninth to convert his 25th consecutive save opportunity, nine short of Randy Myers’ club record, and his 17th this season. It was his first save opportunity since May 22.

The six-game losing streak is history.

Down on the farm, Brian Roberts homered, leading off the first inning for Double-A Bowie. That’s his first home run on his injury-rehab assignment.

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