NEW YORK -- It went without saying that Orioles starter Brian Matusz, who entered Tuesday's game against the Yankees with the longest active losing streak in the Majors, badly needed a win. And manager Buck Showalter -- one victory shy of the prestigious 1,000-win mark -- could've used one, too, if only to appease his two children, who had made Showalter aware of the pending milestone in the first place.
So it was only fitting that Matusz -- the O's most beleaguered starter -- would toss his best start since 2010, using homers from Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy to topple New York, 7-1, and solidify Showalter's spot in the history books.
Tuesday's win was the Orioles' first in five games this season against their American League East rivals from the Bronx, granting Matusz his first victory since June 6, 2011, and crowning Showalter as the 58th manager to reach the four-digit mark in wins. It was a celebration the no-nonsense Showalter accepted begrudgingly, as first-base coach Wayne Kirby started calling on all of the O's players to meet at home plate, pushing their 55-year-old manager right where he belonged -- front and center.
"Buck wanted no part of it," shortstop J.J. Hardy, who delivered a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning, said of the postgame celebration. "He didn't want all of the attention; he was like, 'Let's go, let's go.' We finally got him in the middle of the circle, and it was a pretty cool moment."
"That's embarrassing, but I can't tell you it doesn't tug at your heart a little," said Showalter, who was also treated to a Champagne toast in the visitors' clubhouse before coming out to meet with the media. "It's been an honor to manage this long, with so many good people -- general managers and owners and people who give you an opportunity. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the focus being off it a little, but I'm very appreciative of the players. They made me feel very young tonight, even though I'm an old goat."
|Manager||Current team||Wins||Losses||First win|
|1. Jim Leyland||Tigers||1,600||1,596||1986|
|2. Dusty Baker||Reds||1,495||1,378||1993|
|3. Bruce Bochy||Giants||1,372||1,387||1995|
|4. Davey Johnson||Nationals||1,202||940||1984|
|5. Bobby Valentine||Red Sox||1,128||1,084||1985|
|6. Mike Scioscia||Angels||1,075||893||2000|
|7. Buck Showalter||Orioles||1,000||958||1992|
Old aptly describes Matusz's outing, as the 25-year-old lefty -- still too young for Showalter to consider Tuesday's outing vintage -- held the Yankees to one run over 6 1/3 innings.
"It couldn't be more exciting, being Buck's 1,000th win," Matusz said of his first big league victory since June 6, 2011. "Growing up, I was a huge Diamondbacks fan, and Showalter was the manager there; [I] watched a lot of his games there. Obviously, he's been a great manager for so long. [It's] such an honor to be a part of that game, to come away with a win."
Matusz was one of the main reasons the win was possible, rebounding from Curtis Granderson's homer in the first inning to allow six hits and one walk to go with four strikeouts.
"I've seen Brian when he's right, and I try to keep a long memory of that," Showalter said of the former first-round Draft pick, who went 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his final eight games in 2010. "To see him command the baseball with all his pitches against a predominantly right-handed lineup, that's impressive."
Asked if he felt he was returning to his best form, Matusz said: "Absolutely. Game-by-game, I'm feeling like I'm getting better and better, being able to make those pitches and get out of an inning and not letting things escalate. It feels good to be able to go out there and attack the zone with confidence, to be able to come away with it."
The Orioles' 15th win this season keeps them in second place in the AL East, one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays. The O's won, as they have with frequency this season, through a true team effort. Backed by Matusz's strong showing and Hardy and Davis' homers, the rest of the O's lineup chipped in for a three-run sixth that saw Yankees starter Phil Hughes head to the showers with two outs.
Reliever Darren O'Day followed Matusz and got out of a bases-loaded jam by retiring Alex Rodriguez on a foul popup to end the seventh. O'Day hasn't allowed a run since his first game of the season, a span of 11 1/3 scoreless innings. Luis Ayala followed with a 1-2-3 ninth to cap the O's victory in front of 37,390 at the new Yankee Stadium.
"It started here, and we definitely wanted to get a win while we were here," Davis said of Showalter, whose first career win as manager came with the Yankees in 1992.
"They really embarrassed us at our place [with a sweep], and we kind of wanted to take something from them here."
The O's mounted a two-out rally in the sixth, adding to their lead after Hughes hit catcher Matt Wieters with a pitch. Davis and Wilson Betemit followed with a pair of singles off reliever Boone Logan, and designated hitter Nick Johnson -- who snapped an 0-for-29 slump to open the season with an eighth-inning RBI double -- lifted a ball to left field that scored a pair of runs when Eduardo Nunez committed a fielding error.
"It was great," Johnson said of getting Matusz the win. "He's been pitching well and he should have had that win last time, and I messed up that ball. And he is throwing so well, you never want to make errors. So this is awesome for him, and I'm extremely happy for Buck. Not a lot of people have done it, so I couldn't be happier for him."
Davis went 3-for-4 -- including a second-inning solo homer, his fifth -- and scored three runs, while Hardy's two-run blast snapped a 1-1 tie in the third to hand Matusz the lead.
"I thought he mixed his pitches really well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Matusz. "His offspeed [stuff] was really effective, whether it was his slider, his changeup or his curveball -- just keeping people off balance and being able to get in on guys, where they weren't able to get extended because of the changing of the speeds."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.