Rookie Rocked

Matusz Gives Up 5 Runs, Including 3 Homers, In 2 2/3 Innings

August 10, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,

TORONTO - -There are bound to be other days like this in Brian Matusz's career. Even Matusz's counterpart Sunday, the great Roy Halladay, has had games in which his pitches miss the strike zone or are pounded around the ballpark.

By the middle of the third inning of his team's 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced 27,464 at Rogers Centre, Orioles manager Dave Trembley had concluded that he had seen enough damage inflicted on his prized rookie pitcher. Matusz had already given up three home runs, walked two batters and watched Alex Rios' line single whiz over his head and into center field.

So after Matusz made a second perfunctory throw to first base that afforded Brian Bass a couple of more warm-up tosses in the bullpen, Trembley walked out of the dugout and signaled the end of the 22-year-old left-hander's second major league start.

"There is no reason for him to stand out there and let them hit him all over the field," Trembley said. "There's no reason for that. He'll be on the other side of the coin many, many times. It happens."

It has rarely happened to Matusz at any level. He was 26-8 in college and then went 11-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 19 starts in the minors this year. He beat the Detroit Tigers last week in his major league debut, limiting them to one run over five innings. Before Sunday, he had not lost a professional game since May 8, when he was pitching for the Single-A Frederick Keys.

"It's tough," said Matusz, who allowed five earned runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. Former Oriole Kevin Millar hit a solo homer in the second, and Marco Scutaro and Vernon Wells hit two-run shots in the third inning. "You never want to get hit hard; you never want to lose a ballgame. It's just one of the things that you have to move on [from]. Obviously, I'm upset about it, but I know what I did wrong. I know what I have to do to improve, and I'm able to learn a lot from today."

Halladay allowed three runs (two earned) in eight innings to improve to 20-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 31 career outings against the Orioles. He's 10-0 in his past 13 starts against the Orioles and hasn't lost to them since May 4, 2005.

"This is probably as well as we swung the bat against Halladay and probably our best chance," Trembley said.

Against Halladay, the Orioles collected nine hits, drew a walk and got an additional base runner on an error by Scutaro. However, only one of the hits was of the extra-base variety: Cesar Izturis' RBI double in the third that gave the visitors an all-too-brief 2-1 lead.

In the three-game series, the Orioles didn't hit a home run, and they've gone 38 innings without homering. The Blue Jays' three homers Sunday gave them six for the series, accounting for nine of the 15 runs they scored in the three games.

"With one swing of the bat, they got some crooked numbers up there, and we have to bunch some hits together," said Trembley, whose pitching staff has given up an American League-leading 141 home runs. "It's something that you deal with."

The Orioles (46-65) are a season-worst 19 games under .500. They finished the road trip with a 2-7 record and haven't had a winning road trip all year. They have dropped five straight road series. Those ugly statistics obviously go well beyond Matusz, who has been in the big leagues for a grand total of six days.

Matusz attributed his struggles to faulty fastball command and being too tentative. Before the rookie faced Wells with a man on in the third inning, pitching coach Rick Kranitz came to the mound and suggested that Matusz use his changeup down and away, a pitch that the Orioles have watched Wells pound into the turf on a number of occasions.

Matusz hung a first-pitch changeup instead, and Wells crushed it just under the third deck in right field.

"I got a little bit tentative and tried to place it rather than throw it. It hung up there, and he took care of it. That's just things I learned from today that I need to improve on and get better at," said Matusz, who added that the pressure of pitching opposite Halladay, a five-time All-Star and 2003 Cy Young Award winner, didn't affect him.

"I just didn't make the pitches when I needed to. I never really settled down and got into a good groove. I didn't really get comfortable out there. I need to stop being so fine with my pitches and just [start] attacking the zone. Obviously, outings like this, you never want to have them. But the good thing about them is you're able to learn a lot, and I learned a lot from today."

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said the team fully expects there will be days like this, not just for Matusz, but for all of its young pitchers learning on the job.

"This is the [American League] East," Jones said. "If they're going to have him up in the big leagues, he's going to have to learn to play in this division. It's a tough division with a lot of guys that can swing the bat. I think he'll be fine. Today was a learning experience. That's why he's here right now."


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