ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In his first start of the year, Brian Matusz picked up where he left off.
He allowed two runs over five innings, Garrett Atkins had two RBIs and the Baltimore Orioles avoided a season-opening three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Thursday night.Matusz showed the mental toughness of a veteran, too."That's it in a nutshell," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "This is his first full year in the big leagues, but he showed what he's made of. He can make adjustments on the fly. A lot of young guys aren't able to do that."Matusz (1-0) overcame control problems to win his fifth straight decision. The left-hander walked a career-high five, allowed two hits and struck out seven."I can't remember the last time I walked that many guys in one ballgame," Matusz said. "I was amped up and I was trying to do too much. It's nice to go out on a good note."Matusz ended his outing by striking out all three batters in the fifth.Matt Wieters had a RBI single and Atkins drove in a pair of runs with a single during a four-run sixth that gave the Orioles a 5-2 advantage. Baltimore had loaded the bases with no outs on a single, hit by pitch and walk against Mike Ekstrom (0-1).The Rays drew just 16,191 to their third game of the season. They open another AL East series with the Yankees Friday.Rays starter Jeff Niemann left with one out in the second due to a bruised right shoulder, which occurred when he was hit by Miguel Tejada's line drive. The team said Niemann is day to day."Hopefully I should be back out there in five days," Niemann said. "It's pretty sore, it tightened up a lot. It's just muscle. X-rays are fine. There's nothing really wrong."Pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro pulled Tampa Bay to 5-3 on an RBI grounder in the seventh. Evan Longoria made it 5-4 with a run-scoring single off Jim Johnson during the eighth.Longoria was 5 for 12 with two homers and five RBIs in the series.Jason Bartlett had an RBI single and Carl Crawford hit a sacrifice fly as the Rays went ahead 2-1 in the third. Matusz started the inning by walking Pat Burrell, Gabe Kapler and Kelly Shoppach."After walking the 7-8-9 guys, it's tough," Matusz said. "With no outs and a run already in, giving up just one more was huge for me."Nolan Reimold put the Orioles up 1-0 with a third-inning solo homer.Michael Gonzalez struggled in the ninth en route to his first save of the season. After starting the inning with two strikeouts, the left-hander then loaded the bases on a single and two walks before getting Ben Zobrist to fly out."We had everything set up the way we wanted," Crawford said. "Had Zobrist. You can't ask for more. We just came up short."Gonzalez blew a save on Tuesday, allowing two runs in the ninth of the Orioles' 4-3 loss."From what I understand and the people that I talk to, more times than not he's going to keep you on the edge of your seat," Trembley said. "It's not always pretty, but he gets it done."Baltimore's Brian Roberts ended an 0 for 11 slide with an infield single during the fifth. He was limited to six games in spring training because of a slightly herniated disc in his back.Wieters went 2 for 4, and became the first Orioles' catcher to open the season with three consecutive multihit games.
Trembley said the Rays have "as good a rotation as anybody in this division." ... Baltimore LF Felix Pie (left rotator cuff strain) was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game. ... Johnson has been slowed by elbow tightness. ... Orioles TV analyst Jim Palmer missed Thursday's broadcast due to a bad chest cold and was replaced by Roch Kubatko. ... SS Tim Beckham, taken first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2008 amateur draft, will start the season at Class A Charlotte on the DL with a left wrist injury.