Blue Jays-Orioles Preview
By JON PALMIERI
(AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles' fortunes against the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be changing for the better.
They can only hope the same holds true for struggling left-hander Brian Matusz.
Matusz tries to avoid matching a franchise record with his 13th straight loss Thursday night and help the Orioles complete a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays.
Strong starting pitching and stellar work from its relievers has helped Baltimore (11-7) get off to a strong start. That's an encouraging sign after the Orioles finished with a major league-worst 4.89 ERA last season - their 14th in a row with a losing record.
Jason Hammel continued his superb pitching with four-hit ball over seven innings while Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis homered in Baltimore's 3-0 victory Wednesday night.
The win was the Orioles' third in a row overall and fourth in five games this season against the Blue Jays (10-8) after they lost 12 of 18 meetings in 2011. Baltimore, which hasn't won a season series against Toronto since 2004, has held the Blue Jays to a .174 average (11 for 64) and one extra-base hit in this series.
"We're in a little bit of a dry patch right now, the last two nights, but I'm not going to take anything away from their ability to pitch and how they have executed in these first two games," Toronto manager John Farrell said.
Matusz (0-3, 7.98 ERA) is the only member of the Orioles' rotation without a win, and his 12-game skid is one shy of the franchise record set by Mike Boddicker between Aug. 1987-May 1998. He has an 11.64 ERA in 13 starts since his last victory on June 6, 2011, against Oakland, and has allowed five or more runs 10 times during that span.
The Los Angeles Angels became the latest team to pin a defeat on the southpaw, reaching him for six runs - four earned - and nine hits in five-plus innings in a 6-3 win Friday.
"I made some good pitches tonight, but I also didn't make some pitches when I needed to," Matusz said. "I tried to come inside with the fastball a couple of times, but left it over the middle of the plate and got hurt."
Matusz's struggles against the Blue Jays continued April 15, when he was tagged for five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss. He is 0-3 with a 13.09 ERA in four starts versus Toronto, failing to complete three innings in three of those appearances.
Baltimore was without left fielder Nolan Reimold for a fourth straight game due to neck spasms and second baseman Robert Andino likely will be out again while on paternity leave. Pedro Strop has earned saves in the first two games of this series in place of closer Jim Johnson, who has been hospitalized since Monday with flulike symptoms.
"(They're) still running tests, eliminated some things, haven't completely identified it," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's getting a little frustrated."
Drew Hutchison (1-0, 8.44) makes his second start after becoming the first Blue Jays pitcher to win his major league debut since Ricky Romero on April 9, 2009.
The 21-year-old right-hander, who had never pitched above Double-A before Saturday, left after 99 pitches and 5 1-3 innings at Kansas City, allowing five runs and eight hits in a 9-5 victory.
Updated April 25, 2012