Brian Matusz got the best of Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in their 13-pitch battle in the first inning, striking him out on a changeup to end the first inning. It was an instant classic, and something you don’t normally see in an exhibition game.
Unfortunately for Matusz, he walked off the mound with his pitch count at 22 and didn’t make it through the second inning.
“That one was tough,” Matusz said. “I was trying to pound him in a little bit. I didn’t want to leave anything over the plate where he could put the ball in right field and let the wind take care of it. I think in a different situation I might have mixed in a breaking ball or something like that. It probably would have been different in the regular season, but I continued to pound it hard with the fastball in and he was able to keep fouling, keep fouling, and I didn’t want to go off that path because he wasn’t able to get extended on it and I wanted to continue working on throwing fastballs in. It was a long at-bat, but it was a good challenge.”
“(Craig) Tatum was telling me afterward that Longoria was saying, ‘I’m trying to put it into play, I’m trying to put it into play.’ We were battling. In a different circumstance I probably would have mixed it up and either walked him earlier in the at-bat or came out on top with a strikeout by trying to throw a slider down and in. But it was fun. It was a good battle.”
Matusz didn’t throw any curveballs in his 1 1/3 innings. He had impressive velocity on his fastball and the changeup was downright nasty.
“My game plan today was to come out and really pound the zone and throw a lot of strikes, and I was able to do that today,” he said. “I came out and threw a lot of fastballs. I didn’t go off my game plan at all, even with that at-bat with (Evan) Longoria where he kept fouling pitches off and I still continued going in hard with fastballs. I did what I wanted to do.
“It felt good. I felt loose. Great command of the changeup today. I threw a bunch today - about five or six. I bounced one or two, but the others were very effective.”
I’ll have more from Matusz in my next entry.
Matt Angle just scored on Miguel Abreu’s wind-aided triple in the seventh inning to reduce Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-4. Josh Bell had a chance to bring in the tying run, but he grounded out.