Later today, my focus will return to the First-Year Player Draft, as the Orioles make another batch of selections and announce names you’ve never heard. Before that happens, I wanted to share some postgame quotes from last night.
It’s apparent that left-hander Brian Matusz isn’t back to his old form, the one that enabled him to go 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his last eights starts of 2010, but his winning streak reached a career-high seven games last night.
He must be doing something right.
Matusz allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, with two walks and three strikeouts, in the Orioles’ 4-2 victory over the Athletics at Camden Yards
“Well, I went out there and was able to go as deep as I can and give the team a chance to win. That’s all you ask for,” he said. “Obviously, I’d like to be able to go longer, help out the bullpen a little bit, but they did a great job. J.J. (Jim Johnson) coming in and getting a ground ball like that, Koji (Uehara) and Kevin Gregg doing their thing. It’s a lot of fun playing like that.
“I’m starting to get a little bit more comfortable. I’m a little tentative out there and tight, thinking about too many things instead of just relaxing and letting the ball go. But I was able to make the pitches when I needed to. Good curveball working, changeup at times. The most important thing is making good pitches.
“The ball was up a little bit at times. I’ve got to be able to make small adjustments, get the ball down a little bit more more consistently. It’s one of the things I’ll be able to work on during my side session.
“I feel good health-wise, 100 percent. Just getting that rhythm and letting the ball fly out of the hand. Right now, I’m a little bit tense and It’s not coming out the way I want it to, but it’s all right. I’ve just got to continue making pitches and getting better. I’ve got to go out there with a free mind and not think about things too much and let it fly. The more outings I get, the more comfortable I’ll get. I’ll keep going, I’ll use this as a positive outing and move forward.”
Matusz doesn’t sound too concerned about his velocity.
“Just being able to be smooth with it and letting it come out,” he said. “It’ll come around. It’s still early for me. I’m not worried about it.”
Matusz surrendered a two-run homer to Adam Rosales in the fourth inning.
“It was a 2-0 fastball right down the middle,” he said. “It was actually kind of the same thing that I did last year when he hit it out on me. It’s one of those things. I shouldn’t have made that pitch. It was poor pitch choice, but you move on.”
Another night passed without an extra-base hit from Nick Markakis, but he contributed a run-scoring single in the second inning off Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
“Right now, any hit is big for me,” he said. “Definitely with two outs after failing to get it done with one out, it’s definitely big, any two-out RBI. You want to be in those situations.
“Especially against as tough of a pitcher as Gonzalez is, you know it’s going to be a dogfight, you know it’s going to be a low-scoring game when you have those two types of pitchers on the mound. I thought overall this is probably one of our better wins all year. We played small ball, we got some runs across, we got some big hits, and we ended up winning. When it comes down to it, that’s what we wanted to do.”
Jim Johnson played a huge role in the win with 1 2/3 perfect innings after replacing Matusz.
“There have been hot and cold spots, just like any year,” he said. “I had a good stretch early in the year and kind of hit a funk. Sometimes, balls find holes, sometimes balls are hit right at people. It’s different every day. You really can’t control much, but you try to pound your strike zone and use our offense.”
Johnson induced a double play bouncer from Rosales to end a sixth-inning rally.
Was his best sinker of the night the pitch to Rosales?
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “It was awesome to get two outs right there and kind of kill any momentum that they had. I thought the outcome was better than the actual pitch.”
Focusing on the bullpen, Johnson said, “I think some guys have their roles more defined. We all know kind of where we’re going to slot in. Some guys are getting good work. Jeremy (Accardo) has been throwing real well. We need to get Clay (Rapada) into a game. He hasn’t pitched in two series. He’s going to get in there soon. We’re trying to keep moving the chain and keep the momentum going.”
Move those sticks, move those sticks.
Johnson has allowed only two earned runs in his last 15 games spanning 19 1/3 innings, and he’s riding an 11 1/3 scoreless innings streak. He hasn’t permitted a run since May 16 in Boston.
After allowing two home runs in his first four appearances, Johnson has surrendered only one in 23 outings.