Looks Like A Winner

Orioles Gaze Into The Future As Matusz Impresses In Debut

Bats Come Alive

August 05, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

DETROIT - - In this, the Orioles' decade of darkness, the 2009 season has been brightened intermittently with the belief that hope is on the horizon.

In that regard, perhaps no night this year has signaled that potentially promising future more than Tuesday's 8-2 beating of the Detroit Tigers in which the Orioles' top draft pick from 2008 threw unhittable changeups and sliders to the club's 2007 top pick.

"This is one that everybody should take a great deal of pride in for a long time," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "This is just the start of things."

Making his major league debut, 22-year-old left-hander Brian Matusz tossed five solid innings, and the Orioles (45-61) ended a four-game losing streak by beating the hottest pitcher in the American League and his new first-place club.

Matusz (1-0) became the Orioles' sixth starter to make a big league debut this season and fifth to win it. In those games, the team is 6-0.

The five victorious debuts - by Koji Uehara, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, David Hernandez and Matusz - are the most by one club in one season in modern baseball history (since 1900). The 1888 Chicago White Stockings, who eventually became the Cubs, had six pitchers win their major league debuts.

"That's when they started baseball," quipped Orioles rookie catcher Matt Wieters, "so everybody was debuting."

If Matusz, Wieters and the new breed of Orioles are to energize this moribund franchise, Tuesday was a solid indication of rebirth.

Signed last August as the fourth overall pick out of the University of San Diego, Matusz rocketed through the system, posting an 11-2 record and 1.99 ERA in two minor league levels this season before debuting Tuesday.

"I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous out there," said Matusz, who allowed one run on six hits and three walks in five innings. "I was definitely a little bit nervous, but once I got that first strike across to that first hitter, I relaxed a little bit."

Mixing four pitches including a fastball that reached 94 mph and a devastating changeup, he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 24 batters he faced. He had five strikeouts, including his first against Detroit's all-world slugger Miguel Cabrera.

His most important, however, came in the fifth, when he had runners on second and third and one out and threw consecutive third-strike sliders to escape damage.

"He's a tough kid. He's got some big stones," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "You could just see when he went to second-and-third in the fifth inning that he turned it up a notch. And that says something about the kid. He made his best pitches in that situation, which was huge. They made him work. That was not an easy game for him."

He was aided plenty by his supporting cast, including tremendous glovework by shortstop Cesar Izturis, who made a diving stab of a bases-loaded, two-out grounder in the second and turned it into a benign forceout.

"You don't get these kinds of plays in the Appalachian Rookie League," Trembley said. "They make them in the big leagues and they make them for a reason."

Izturis and Nick Markakis each had three hits, including home runs, and three RBIs. Wieters drove in a run, and so did Melvin Mora, who was starting his first game since publicly criticizing Trembley on Sunday.

The Orioles had 11 hits, including six and six runs against the AL' s July Pitcher of the Month Jarrod Washburn (8-7) who was making his Tigers debut after being dealt by the Seattle Mariners at last week's trade deadline.

The debut that mattered, for beleaguered Orioles fans anyway, was Matusz.

Pitching in front of an announced 29,295, which included more than 30 of his friends and family members, Matusz did what he was supposed to do.

"I was very impressed with their young pitcher," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Very impressive. Good stuff and he's got good pitch-ability. I was very impressed, and that pretty much sums this one up."

Pitching 18 years to the day after former Orioles pitching sensation Mike Mussina made his big league debut, a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox, Matusz threw strikes (65 of his 99 pitches), worked fast and got out of jams.

Perhaps, most important, he provided the Orioles with another dose of much-needed hope.

"With the way Matusz pitched tonight and then in the fifth, the way he cranked it up a notch or two to get those two big strikeouts, he is special. He came as advertised," Trembley said.

"The night belongs to Matusz in some respects, but it belongs to everybody with the Orioles because certainly a lot of people helped to make this happen."

Box score

for Tuesday's game PG 4

ORIOLES @TIGERS

Tonight, 7:05

TV: MASN HD

Radio: 105.7 FM

Inside

Jones gets a shot at hitting cleanup PG 3

Orioles pitching debuts

Brian Matusz became the sixth Orioles starting pitcher this season to make his major league debut, but the first to do so on the road. Here is how they fared:

Pitcher Date Opponent Result IP H R ER BB K

Koji Uehara 4/8 Yankees W, 7-5 5 5 1 1 1 0

Brad Bergesen 4/21 White Sox W, 10-3 5 2/3 4 3 1 2 4

Jason Berken 5/26 Blue Jays W, 7-2 5 7 2 2 3 3

David Hernandez 5/28 Tigers W, 5-1 5 2/3 5 1 1 4 3

Chris Tillman 7/29 Royals No-decision 4 2/3 7 3 3 1 2

Brian Matusz 8/4 @Tigers W, 8-2 5 6 1 1 3 5

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