BALTIMORE -- Brian Matusz was perplexed. Sure, pitching in the big leagues is supposed to be tough, yet the Baltimore Orioles rookie refused to believe the step up in competition was the sole explanation for his 6.46 ERA.
A film study and a mental journey to a happier time provided the answer, and the results were put on full display Sunday at Camden Yards.
Making his sixth major league start, Matusz pitched seven innings of four-hit ball and had a career-high eight strikeouts to carry the Orioles past the Cleveland Indians 5-2.
"I've been working all week, trying to figure out what happened, what's been going on, why I haven't been consistently pounding the strike zone with all my pitches," said Matusz, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft. "I kind of actually just visually broke it down and went back to seeing, visualizing how I felt when I was at my best."
His conclusion: Upon reaching the majors, he became a different pitcher, and not in a good way.
"I looked at video of when I pitched in [Double-A] Bowie when I was pounding all my pitches. Then I took some video of when I was throwing here," Matusz said. "I was trying to do too much, extending my arm too far back, trying to overpower it instead of trying to stay compact."
Avoiding the temptation to add 5 mph to his fastball or put extra spin on the curve, Matusz (3-2) gave up one run. His lone walk came when he was called for going to his mouth on a 3-1 pitch.
The 22-year-old lefty held the Indians hitless over four innings and permitted only one hit through five. It was the first time he went at least six innings; even more notable is that over those previous five starts, Matusz had yielded 38 hits in 23 2/3 innings.
His performance left an impression on the Indians, who finished with seven hits after getting at least 10 in 11 of their previous 14 games.
"He had his breaking ball going. He threw a four-seamer and it had some good tail on it. He threw it for strikes and kept us guessing," third baseman Jamey Carroll said. "He threw a good changeup. He threw it with the same arm speed and same kind of rotation as his fastball."
After Danys Baez gave up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo in the eighth, Jim Johnson worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
Felix Pie homered with a man on during a four-run third inning against Justin Masterson (4-6). Over a 16-game stretch that began when he hit for the cycle against Los Angeles on Aug. 14, Pie is 18 for 47 (.383) with five homers and 12 RBI.
"Pie has improved since the All-Star break," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "This is an opportunity for him coming down to the last 35 games or so to show what he's got, and so far he's doing a real nice job. He's taking advantage of his opportunity."
• Indians: Hafner sits again, hopes to return soon
Masterson allowed five runs, four earned, and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander is 1-3 since coming to the Indians from Boston in a July 31 trade.
"Overall, it was some good pitches that wound up as hits," Masterson said. "There were some fly balls falling in, some ground balls missing infielders. One hard hit capped it off for them."
A couple of Cleveland errors, two walks and Pie's seventh homer of the season provided Baltimore with a 4-0 lead in the third. Ty Wigginton led off with a bloop to right and made it to second base after Choo let the ball get by him. One out later, Carroll threw wildly to first on a chopper by Brian Roberts, allowing Wigginton to score.
Pie followed with a two-run shot, and Luke Scott added an RBI double.
Cleveland scored its lone run off Matusz in the sixth. Grady Sizemore hit a one-out triple to center that glanced off Adam Jones' glove, and Carroll followed with a single.
Baltimore got an unearned run in the bottom half.
Indians DH Travis Hafner missed a second consecutive game with an injured left shoulder. He will be examined in Cleveland during an off-day Monday, but expects to play Tuesday in Detroit. ... Baltimore improved to 15-27 in series finales, including 8-13 at home. ... Cleveland's season-high run of eight games in a row with a home run ended.