Orioles spoil Matsuzaka’s return
BALTIMORE — As Matt Wieters rounded the bases, cheered by a stadium full of orange-clad fans grasping at a chance to celebrate, there was little left for Daisuke Matsuzaka to do. He had turned a stellar beginning, full of wicked sliders and on-target fastballs, into a debacle, a beatdown by the Orioles, who have only six wins on the season, three of which have come against the Red Sox.
Matsuzaka’s return had signaled hope for a rotation strangled by its own high expectations and subpar performances. It should have been an easy start for him against a team with little luck and poor results.
Matsuzaka was not the answer, not yesterday anyway, as the Orioles came out on the right side of a homer-filled 12-9 game.
“We’re definitely frustrated,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “To come here and lose two games in a row, it’s not how it should be. You have to get at least one.
“We haven’t put all the stuff together we need do. Some days we don’t have anything going. We need to figure it out and come together. We need to do what we have to do. It’s still really early. I have confidence in this team to bounce back.’’
Part of that will require getting good performances from a starting rotation whose ERA has expanded to 5.08, with Matsuzaka allowing six earned runs (one unearned) over 4 2/3 innings.
“There’s no end to the list I could make for all the things that I felt were wasteful tonight,’’ Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. “I think I got a little bit too greedy in this first start.’’
It all fell apart in the fifth, a three-run lead dissolving into a three-run deficit as Matsuzaka faced every batter in the Orioles’ order. Matsuzaka had allowed just one baserunner (a walk to Ty Wigginton in the second) in the previous 12 batters. With one out in the inning, Wigginton homered to bring the Orioles within two. There was a single, a walk, a fielder’s choice, an infield single, another single — and then the big blow.
With the Orioles having tied the score at 4-4, Wieters stepped up to the plate with two runners on base. It took three pitches. Wieters deposited the ball in the left field stands. Matsuzaka faced one more batter, Miguel Tejada, who doubled to left-center. Matsuzaka was done.
“I think I did have the right amount of nervousness going up to the mound,’’ Matsuzaka said. “So I think that was a positive. I think my pitches themselves, like I said, were pretty good, but there are some adjustments that I do need to make. If I’m not able to make those adjustments before my next start, I think you can continue to see negative results. So I really have to do what I have to do between these next starts.’’
“It was a roller-coaster,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He starts out, I thought his stuff was excellent. Slider, good breaking ball, had some finish on his fastball. Gets to the fifth and they get the two [runs] and we’re 4-4 and we’re warming [Tim Wakefield] up and we get a ground ball that’s not hit hard enough to turn two and a swinging bunt and Wieters’ ball turns the game around. It’s a big hit in the game.’’
It was time for Wakefield. Though the Sox had wanted to give the knuckleballer a clean inning for his first relief appearance since 2004, it didn’t work out that way. And though he retired the Orioles in the fifth, Wakefield allowed homers to Wigginton and Nick Markakis in the sixth and one to Luke Scott in the seventh.
“I had an opportunity to keep us in the game the way our offense was going and I just didn’t do it,’’ Wakefield said. When asked if coming out of the bullpen was a factor, he said, “I don’t think so. Obviously I came in with a runner on second, two outs, and got the huge strikeout, but I wasn’t able to convert my stuff for the next two innings.
He added, when asked how frustrating it was not to keep the game close, “Absolutely. I feel responsible for us losing tonight.’’
The Red Sox got some early offense from unexpected sources. David Ortiz got his second home run of the season, a 376-foot shot to right-centerfield in the second inning. Jonathan Van Every also went deep, for the second of his career, to lead off the third. The Sox added two more runs in the fourth and gave Matsuzaka the perfect chance to finish what he started. It didn’t happen quite that way.
“I’m definitely surprised we’re not playing better,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “It’s part of the game. Could we be better? Yes. Could we be worse? Yes. But I don’t think on any end, we’re playing good baseball. I speak for myself, I need to do a lot more to help this team win. I think every guy needs to look in the mirror and see what they can do each day to make this team better off.’’
Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report.