The Matusz decision: To hope or hook

The clubhouse opens at 10:05 a.m. today, and it will provide some warmth on this cold morning.

Forget chilly. I just stepped outside and the "chilly" ship has sailed. It's cold.

We're getting up to 64 degrees today, according to the Fox 45 weather forecast. Or it's going to be 45 according to the Fox 64 forecast. I'm a little tired and wasn't paying close attention.

Before we turn the page on last night's game, which is sure to leave a paper cut considering the way this season is going, I'd like to revisit the eighth inning.

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I've read the comments about Brian Matusz pitching the eighth, how he shouldn't have started the inning, how he should have been removed after the second batter reached, how a reliever should have been ready before the rookie's first pitch.

I'll agree on the last point.

Keep in mind that I'm only offering my opinion here and I don't expect everyone to agree, but...

You don't remove Matusz after the seventh when the kid's cruising and your bullpen can't hold a lead. His pitch count was below 100. He was still rolling. You absolutely, positively, send him back out for the eighth.

You don't remove him after two straight one-out singles. A seeing-eye grounder that Ty Wigginton couldn't reach and a dying quail aren't signs that a pitcher is tiring. Matusz gives me the best chance to win. No one in that bullpen instills more confidence. As Earl Weaver supposedly would ask Jim Palmer when he'd visit the mound and a reliever was warming, "Is there anyone in the bullpen who's better than you? No? Then you're staying in the game."

I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

If the Orioles give up the lead after Matusz is removed with two on and one out, fans are screaming their lungs out over the quick hook. It happened repeatedly last year.

Also, Matusz struck out the leadoff batter, Willy Aybar, which again told me that he was fine. Two weak singles weren't going to change my mind.

I know the argument about taking out Matusz before he's in a position to lose the game, but I thought we were playing it to win, not worry about a pitcher's line. He gives me the best chance to do it. He stays in there.

My collar tightened once Jason Bartlett lined a single into left field. That one was smoked and it loaded the bases. The real decision came right...about...there.

You could go either way. Take him out with the tying runs aboard or give him one more batter - which manager Dave Trembley obviously did - and hope for a double play or another strikeout. Matusz already had eight of them, tying his career high.

Trembley keeps lamenting how the bullpen isn't closing games. No wonder he shied away from it. But that's the point in the game that allows for the real second-guessing.

We're probably not having this discussion if Sean Rodriguez grounds to short, but he lined another single to left.

The relievers need to be held accountable, too. Jim Johnson is supposed to stop the bleeding, not widen the gash. Will Ohman left a pitch up that B.J. Upton slammed off the out-of-town scoreboard. They didn't get the job done. They're on the roster to, you know, get the job done.

So in conclusion, I'm more understanding of the debate over letting Matusz pitch to Rodriguez. And most certainly, Johnson should have been ready once the inning started, no matter when you planned to use him. That's just common sense.

Matt Albers in the 10th? He was making his third straight appearance, though the other two totaled only one inning. That's three straight times warming up and entering a game. He hasn't been especially sharp. Trembley wasn't in a hurry to call upon him again, considering he waited until the 10th, but Jason Berken made more sense to me.

Trembley wanted Albers to throw that sinker and get ground balls. And I want Salma Hayek. We discussed this yesterday.

I enjoyed tracking the comments last night and reading your viewpoints. They really enhance the blog and I appreciate the effort, especially with so much frustration mounting.

And yes, I'm still aware that the only victory came while I joined Jim Hunter in the MASN broadcast booth. Purely coincidence.

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