Matusz masterful as O's down White Sox

Matusz masterful as O's down White Sox

CHICAGO -- These are the kind of starts the Orioles envisioned this spring for rookie Brian Matusz, who -- like all of Baltimore's young arms -- has taken his lumps, but has put together an August that has been nothing short of dominant.

Wednesday night was just the latest dazzling display for Matusz, who handcuffed a White Sox squad in the thick of the American League Central race -- allowing just one run on three hits en route to the Orioles' 4-2 series-evening win over Chicago.

"I thought the most impressive inning was the seventh inning," manager Buck Showalter said of the final frame of Matusz's outing, which tied a career-high with 117 pitches and saw the rookie take down the heart of the White Sox lineup.

"He went back out there. And those are the type of things a young pitcher can reach back for as they go forward in their careers, and know that they are capable of doing that."

A one-time Rookie of the Year candidate, Matusz has shown flashes of brilliance in a season marred in inconsistency. He opened the season 2-1 with a 4.40 ERA before pitching to a 7.50 ERA in May and a 3.69 mark in June. His season hit a skid following July 4th's seven scoreless innings and Matusz didn't pitch more than five innings in the four starts that followed -- giving way to an 8.10 ERA and rumbling of a possible demotion.

"There's been some tough times this year where I felt like I was just out of my element and the hardest part is to be able to find it and get it back and make that adjustment," said Matusz, who has allowed one earned run or less in four of his last five starts and is 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA in August.

"It's not easy to do at this level when you are going out there every five days against the best hitters in baseball. So, to have that consistency now [and] to be locked in a little bit is a good feeling."

Coming off eight scoreless innings against Texas, Matusz continued to cruise on Wednesday -- extending his shutout streak to 14 innings before he surrendered a leadoff homer to Gordon Beckham in the sixth. Beckham's homer -- which marked his second consecutive night with a home run -- sailed 404 feet over the center-field fence and put Chicago on the board. But the 23-year-old Matusz, who had retired 10-of-11 before Beckham's blast, barely blinked and retired the final six batters he faced.

"He gave up three hits and I think that they had 10 or more hits in 13 [games] in a row," Showalter said of the White Sox. "That gives you an idea. Especially when you are playing them in their ballpark, in the middle of a pennant race when every game means that much to them. It's impressive."

Matusz -- who struck out six -- exited after a 1-2-3 seventh inning in which he got Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin and A.J. Pierzynski on a pair of infield pop-ups and a shallow fly ball. He was followed by Michael Gonzalez, who tossed a scoreless eighth inning, and lowered his ERA to 0.60 in two starts against the White Sox this season.

"I don't think confidence has ever been a factor. I've always known that I have the stuff to get guys out -- it's just a matter of keeping them off balance and attacking the zone," Matusz said. "[Consistency is] all it's about at this level. Not just inning-by-inning but pitch by pitch. And I feel like I've gotten things together a little bit."

And as a result, the Orioles were able to outduel White Sox starter Mark Buehrle for the second consecutive time. Buehrle, who lost his last start against Baltimore on Aug. 8, stranded a pair of runners in the second inning but the Orioles broke through to score twice in the fifth.

Red-hot Felix Pie opened with a walk and Matt Wieters doubled him in for an easy score. Wieters scored on Corey Patterson's single -- following an intentional walk to Brian Roberts -- to put the O's up by two. Wieters -- who grounded into a double play to quash the second inning rally -- came through again with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, scoring Ty Wigginton who drew a leadoff walk.

"Wiety doesn't seem to be a guy that really dwells on one at-bat," Showalter said. "You got to, in the Major Leagues, turn the page on the good and bad things -- and know there is going to be another shot around the corner."

Wieters, who worked in a great tempo with Matusz all night, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to give his batterymate an easy -- and unusual -- lead off Buehrle.

"Well, two leadoff walks, two runs scored on that and that kind of explains everything," said Buehrle, who had only allowed more than three earned runs once in his previous 13 starts -- but was tagged for four in the loss.

"[It] gave Matusz something to work with," Showalter said of the O's early lead, which was extended with Brian Roberts' solo homer in the seventh. "We haven't been able to do that, give these guys a little breathing room here and there."

It was plenty for Matusz, who picked up his sixth win of the season and helped the Orioles improve to 13-10 this month. The O's are 13-9 since Showalter assumed the managerial reins and have to go 2-3 in their remaining five games to post their first winning August since 1997.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.