Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Matusz Debut

It's the most anticipated Oriole pitching prospect debut since... last week. And, of course. that means I'll be live blogging. Check back right here once the game gets underway in about 20 minutes.

Top 1: Roberts starts the O's off right again tonight, this time doubling to right center field. For those who have been critical of Brian's effort at times this year, please note his hustle tonight. With a full count on Nolan Reimold, Brian broke for third. He nearly reached the bag, but Reimold lofted a fly ball to deep center. Brian retreated all the way to the second base bag, tagged up and advanced 90 feet. That's heads up baserunning and impressive hustle. Now, the Tigers are bringing the infield in with one out and Nick Markakis due up. This seems like a bad idea. Sure enough, Nick grounds one through the hole on the right side. The run would have scored either way, but it is possible that's the second out if the infield is at normal depth. Finally, Adam Jones grounds into a double play to end this inning. I have to say, I really like this lineup configuration. I hope that Reimold can continue to post a high enough OBP (.367 coming into tonight) to warrant batting at the top of the lineup. Coming up... Brian Matusz's debut!

Bottom 1: It's hard to believe that a year ago, Brian Matusz wasn't even a member of the Orioles organization. So far, so good: a soft pop to center for the first out of the inning.

Fastball: 92-93 mph
Change-up: 81 mph

Looking good... 1, 2, 3 inning!

Top 2: Here's a sentence I hope to write many times in the future: Matt Wieters gives Brian Matusz a 2-0 lead.

Bottom 2: Matusz is clearly comfortable pitching backwards (fastballs in breaking ball counts; breaking balls in fastball counts), and he has excellent command of his breaking balls. That's a recipe for success.

Good camera work from the MASN guys gives a nice view the circle change grip on the pitch Matusz used to strike out Miguel Cabrera. That's a pretty good hitter to get for your first career strike out.

A 3-1 change-up to Raburn with a runner on second. I like it. The batter is going to be looking fastball, and Matusz was hoping to roll him over.

The first curve ball from Matusz comes in at 77 mph, on a 1-1 pitch to Inge with runners on first and second. Buck Martinez just got done telling a story regarding the pre-game pitching meeting; Matusz indicated his curve was his weakest pitch. He sure had confidence in throwing that one.

As a former catcher, Buck should know what he's talking about in evaluating pitch selection. He's on his game tonight, doing an excellent job evaluating the game being called by Wieters.

And that's why the O's signed Cesar Izturis: an excellent diving snag and flip to Roberts ends the inning.

Bottom 3: More excellent defense from Izturis; solid defense behind a young pitching staff was exactly what the Orioles were hoping for.

And now Buck makes the same point. Like I said, he's on his game tonight.

After getting ahead 1-2 to Miguel Cabrera, Matusz loses him for his third walk of the evening. Needless to say, we don't like walks. Martinez makes the point that Matusz is becoming a bit too "change-up reliant" as Kranitz comes to the mound for a conference. Matusz has tried to establish his fastball, especially inside to righties, but he's just missed on numerous occassions. I don't know if he's trying to be too fine, or if he's getting squeezed, but a few more fastball strikes would greatly improve his outing.

Top 4: Jones showed bunt on the first pitch of the inning, but Inge (who was playing deep) apparently indicated that he would not be moving up to take the bunt away. Jones has done this a bit in recent weeks, and I like it. It didn't work this time, but if he can get the third baseman a few feet closer, he's more likely to sneak one by every once in a while. I used the tactic during my career to keep teams from employing a full-fledged shift and I know it helped my batting average. I like Adam Jones more with each passing day.

Bottom 4: A pair of doubles plates the first runs for the Tigers and pushes Matusz past the 80 pitch mark. Given his bouts of mini-wildness in the 2nd and 3rd, it looks like he'll be unable to throw more than 5.0 innings tonight. Orioles lead 2-1.

Top 5: Cesar Izturis is definitely the early leader for tonight's player of the game. His homer gives Matusz and the O's a 3-1 lead.

Bottom 5: MASN just showed the graphic that 18 years ago tonight Mike Mussina made his debut against the White Sox. Let's hope another Orioles top prospect is beginning a Hall of Fame career on August 4.

After a Miguel Cabrera double to put runners at second and third, Matusz bears down and strikes out Thames and Raburn to end the inning. Through 5.0, the O's lead 3-1.

Assuming we've seen the last of Matusz, here's my summary of his outing: great change-up, but he was missing his fastball command tonight. He also didn't throw many sliders or curveballs. I'm guessing that adrenaline had a big impact on both of these; he may have been overthrowing a touch. In all, while he didn't pitch great, he's given the O's a chance to win and I'm incredibly excited for the Brian Matusz era. He clearly has the stuff, command and mound presence to justify his high selection and advancement to the Majors after just four professional months. He's going to be a good one.

Top 6: Sure enough, that's it for Matusz. He's in line to become the fifth different Orioles pitcher to win his Major League debut this season. This would be the first Major League team since 1890 to achieve that feat. We're still waiting on Jake Arietta, too.

Markakis just crushed a homer to right center with Reimold on first base. Have I mentioned that I like this line-up configuration?

A two-run single from Izturis ups the lead to 7-1. Let's hope the bullpen can hold this lead. And, with that, the live blog is done for the evening.

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