Brian Matusz was the main topic of conversation in manager Buck Showalter’s postgame session with the media, and for good reason.
Matusz turned in his second quality start in a row, holding Boston to one run and two hits and striking out nine over 6 1/3 innings in a 4-1 victory before 25,171 at Camden Yards.
“I’ve seen Brian really good here. Not just tonight,” Showalter said. “I thought he and Matt (Wieters) did a great job of using all his pitches. He had command of two breaking balls, which is really hard to do. The changeup was there for him. Made his fastball that much more effective. I thought his tempo was a little better. Actually, he slowed it down a little bit and got downhill. It was a good outing for him. Probably bring him back on normal rest on Sunday.
“It’s not just one. He’s had other good outings. This is hard to do and I’m not going to say any young pitcher’s figured it all out at this stage, at the quarter mark of the season, but it’s a good team that’s on top of their game offensively, and to have that type of outing in a much-needed situation is impressive. Hopefully, he can carry it over and be the consistent guy that he’s capable of being.”
Matusz has issued one walk in each of his last three starts for the Orioles.
“Yeah, command, and sometimes you’re wild in the strike zone,” Showalter said. “The other part of the game he’s really tackled and made him that much more effective is controlling the running game. Look at the numbers compared to in the past with the running game, especially with the people at second base. You see young pitchers that have had a lot of success behind them, except in the major leagues, and sincerely tackle some of the challenges at this level they’re going to face, and see it come to fruition out there between the lines is refreshing.”
Matusz is 4-1 in May after losing 12 straight decisions.
“I don’t think Brian has a fear of (failure),” Showalter said. “He knows what’s expected now. Our young pitchers have a real grasp of what’s good enough and what’s not and they just have to hold themselves to a high standard. He got away with a couple pitches tonight and they fouled them off and I could tell he was disappointed. It wasn’t something you’re always going to be able to get away with. They’ve just got to raise the bar, and they have so far.”
Matusz apparently will pitch again Sunday on normal rest despite Thursday’s off day. Jake Arrieta starts tomorrow against the Red Sox, and Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen start the first two games of the Royals series that begins Friday.
“We were going to wait and see how the game went,” Showalter said. “It’s still something we’ll probably discuss a little bit. We were going to wait until after the game and see how he did and if we want to keep him on a routine compared to some other guys who could use some time. I think Brian’s in a little different category.”
Showalter enjoyed hearing the loud ovation for Matusz as he walked off the mound in the seventh inning.
“I did,” he said. “It’s like, a long time ago, David Cone, he pitched for me in New York, had gotten his brains beaten out. It was two or three times in a row and he got booed off the mound. He used to have a locker outside my office, and he used to say, ‘They’re waiting to embrace me. It’s up to me.’ They asked him what he thought about the booing. He said, ‘It’s up to me to give them something to embrace me about.’ Everybody wants to see these guys do well, and especially themselves. The fans and everybody, they’re waiting to embrace good baseball.”
Another special moment for Showalter tonight came when Steve Tolleson hit his second major league home run, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
“Stevie’s very quietly made some big contributions against left-hand pitching,” Showalter said. “He’s a baseball player. I know you all get tired of hearing that, but that’s as big an accolade I can give somebody. He’s going to be in the right place at the right time. You know he can sit two or three days and prepare himself to make a contribution.
“All I could think about was probably his dad somewhere, Stevie’s dad, you know, jumping up and down as that ball left the ballpark. That’s how old I am. I had Wayne. I was on a coaching staff with Wayne in the big leagues. I’ve called him (Steve) Wayne three or four times.”
Showalter confirmed that Brian Roberts will play second base tomorrow and Thursday night at Double-A Bowie and serve as the designated hitter Friday.
“Don’t hold me to it, but I might slip down there. I might,” he said.
“I think everybody’s excited for him. There’s so much unknown. I wouldn’t say he’s got anxiety. It’s the next step. He’s prepared himself. I see how hard he’s been working to get ready for this day. There’s a nice little buzz about him going out in our clubhouse. We all know it could make us better if we can get him back like he’s capable.”
On the same night that Matusz continues his turnaround with an outstanding start against the Red Sox, we find out that Roberts will play in his first game in more than a year.
“The game will let you up if you stay true to it,” Showalter said. “I’ve always said it looks bleak sometimes. If you stay true to it and you’ve got a pure heart about trying to do things the right way, sooner or later the baseball gods will shine on you. Sometimes it gets hard to see the light at the end of it, but sooner or later, you’ll see it. There’s many a time I looked for it and couldn’t find it. I’m hoping that both Brians get back what they’ve committed and make a contribution.”