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Published: Saturday, 10/2/2010

Matusz strikes out 9 to defeat Detroit


BALTIMORE — Brian Matusz finished with a flourish, taking some of the sting out of a frustrating rookie season.

Matusz struck out a career-high nine to win his sixth consecutive decision, Nick Markakis homered, and the Baltimore Orioles beat Detroit 2-1 Saturday night, handing the Tigers their sixth straight loss.

“I felt strong for being my 32nd start this year,” Matusz said. “It's a good feeling knowing I came out this strong and I was able to finish the season [with] no injuries. That was one of my goals, to be able to make all my starts and finishing strong like that really makes the year a lot better.”

Matusz (10-12) allowed a run on two hits and a walk in six innings. The left-hander is 6-0 in his last eight starts and the six straight victories tie a career high.

It was an impressive rebound for a pitcher who won once in 18 starts from May 24 through July 29 and was 3-11 entering August.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn't at the helm when Matusz was struggling, so it's hard for him to imagine there were whispers about his now-dominant lefty needing more minor league seasoning.

“I've had very few times out there where I thought [Matusz] was going to have a tough time,” Showalter said. “He's got a lot of ways to defend himself.”

The Orioles have won four straight and improved to 34-22 since Showalter took over as manager Aug. 2.

Brandon Inge homered for the Tigers, who must win Sunday's season finale to avoid finishing under .500.

“We didn't play bad,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “We certainly didn't pitch bad. We didn't do much offensively, obviously. You've got to give their pitcher a lot of credit for that.”

Armando Galarraga (4-9), who lost his fourth straight decision, yielded two runs on three hits over eight innings. He walked one and struck out seven in his second career complete game.

“You can't pitch much better than that, but their guy did just a little bit better,” Leyland said.

After Inge's second-inning homer, the Tigers failed to advance a runner to second base.

Michael Gonzalez worked the seventh, Jim Johnson pitched the eighth, and Koji Uehara got three outs for his 13th save.

The Orioles came up with two sterling defensive plays in the eighth. Shortstop Cesar Izturis ranged deep into the hole to field pinch-hitter Will Rhymes' grounder and his throw to first beat the speedy runner for the first out. Austin Jackson then hit a ball on which right fielder Markakis made a diving grab to prevent an extra-base hit.

With a victory Sunday, the Orioles will earn a four-game home sweep of the Tigers for the first time since April 17-20, 1992.

Galarraga retired the first 10 Orioles in order before Markakis homered to right, tying the game in the fourth.

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