Looking back on perfect season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - One game, one win.

That’s perfection in my book.

Of course, a franchise with 13 straight losing seasons can’t function without a little adversity. The entire front office might break out in a rash if all the news is good.

The revelation about Brian Matusz’s back and the MRI result put a real damper on last night’s festivities. Jeremy Guthrie should have been the center of attention. He was brilliant.

“I’ve seen him pretty good, last August and September, but knowing the margin of error on the road like this, quite frankly, it’s a little pick-me-up after the news with (Matusz) today,” manager Buck Showalter told reporters after the game.

Jim Johnson gives up a home run on the first pitch to Ben Zobrist, and we probably shared the same thought. How many leads have been lost at Tropicana Field?

“It may sound small to see J.J. come in after the home run and pitch effective,” Showalter said. “I thought the 1-0 call by (Matt) Wieters, the changeup to (Johnny) Damon, turned the momentum around a little in that inning. It was fun to watch, fun to be part of.”

Showalter had another observation about another J.J.

“J.J. had a great day at shortstop,” he said, referring to Hardy. “Boy, he played well. That play up the middle was a real tough play. Any time you can minimize the damage with Longoria and Ramirez, you feel fortunate.”

Momentum in baseball is the next day’s pitcher, but the word came up last night.

Showalter noted its importance “just to (build) a mentality.”

“There are so many ebbs and flows and emotions through the course of the season,” he said. “It’s like I said before the game, it’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Every day, there’s something that you challenge the guys to stay together. It’s going to happen, something that gives you a little pop in the rear. We just didn’t expect it to happen the first day.”

This is officially the first time I’ve heard a manager reference Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Just saying...

Like so many others, I’m shocked that Zach Britton is coming up before April 21. It’s important to note, however, that he can be sent down and spend 21 days in the minors without his service clock starting. That’s how it’s been explained to me by numerous people.

I still expected one of the Triple-A veterans to be rushed up here, not the organization’s top pitching prospect. But it adds a few layers of excitement to tomorrow’s game.

Britton will be nervous. No doubt about it. And not Phillies-in-Clearwater nervous like before. He’ll be amped up to the point where he’ll be ready to jump through the roof. The Orioles will need to keep him grounded.

No need to throw that fastball 105 mph. It’s got plenty of speed and movement at 95. Just be yourself. Trust your stuff and the defense behind you. And listen to whatever Wieters tells you.

That’s my advice.

“Instead of bum-rushing Britton here, we’ll let him be here for a day and kind of get his legs on the ground,” Showalter said. “(Chris) Tillman’s turn is tomorrow anyway. We just don’t think that Bergy (Brad Bergesen) is equipped to go yet late in the game, and the last thing we want to do is tax our bullpen this early in the season.”

Special thanks to Guthrie for keeping it fresh last night.

As for Matusz’s injury, Showalter said, “Any time you’re dealing with, it looks like intercostal, the MRI showed a pretty good hot spot there. We’ll be on the cautious side with it. Arm-wise, he’s fine. It’s kind of weird. It started in a a day or two. Then, he went out and threw today and he had an acute pain there.”

All of these injuries and setbacks this spring have brought a pain that’s a little lower, if you know what I mean.

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