The Orioles improved to 22-10 against the American League East since Sept. 7, 2011. They’re 8-2 against Boston, 4-1 against Tampa Bay, 6-3 against Toronto and 4-4 against New York. They’ve won a series against each division rival this season.
“Proud? Sure. I’m proud we’re winning baseball games. But it doesn’t necessarily mean something’s going to happen for the next 100 and some odd games,” manager Buck Showalter said after tonight’s 5-3 win over the Rays.
“Our guys know. It’s a mature group that understands the reality of the ebb and flow of a season. We try to keep the peaks going as long as you can and minimize the valleys.”
Good luck minimizing the damage to the roster. The Orioles had Bill Hall in left field and Steve Tolleson at third base tonight, both non-roster players who were added to the 40-man within the past few days. Hall hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, after Tolleson had an RBI double in the second.
How’s that for handling adversity?
“We talked about the sum of the parts,” Showalter said. “We knew stuff like this was going to happen over the course of a season, but it’s not a topic of conversation in our clubhouse. It’s about getting deep in the game with our starter and trying to catch the baseball and take advantage of the opportunities that we get. We were fortunate tonight that Tampa uncharacteristically helped us some defensively. We helped them a little bit.
“Pitching was the difference tonight for us. We pitched real well out of the ‘pen, and Brian (Matusz), with a couple exceptions, threw the ball real well.
“I thought Steve Tolleson had a big hit for us early in the ballgame. He’s swinging the bat well since he’s been here. I’ve talked to (Triple-A Norfolk manager) Ron Johnson more than anybody and he said Tolleson was one of his two or three hottest hitters at the time.
“Billy’s contact-to-damage ratio is pretty good, especially against left-handed pitching. That’s why it was important to us with the matchup to try to get him here today for the game. Hats off to (traveling secretary) Kevin Buck for getting it done. It always seems to be a lot easier working the schedules to get a guy here as opposed to getting him in the other direction.”
Matusz picked up his second victory in six decisions, doubling his win total from 2011. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of his last four starts.
“He’s striving like all our young pitchers to gain that consistency and that feel that you know what you’re going to get when he goes out there,” Showalter said. “That was a positive step after his last outing. I think Brian understands the level he’s got to pitch at for us to be able to compete on the night he starts.”
Matusz came within one out of a quality start, but the Rays scored twice in the sixth and he exited with two outs.
“They had a couple swinging bunts over there that hurt us,” Showalter said. “He made some good pitches that inning and couldn’t quite finish it off. It’s hard for me to fault him there in the sixth. He made some good pitches and they hit them in spots where we couldn’t defend them.”
The bullpen covered for him with 3 1/3 perfect innings. The relievers in this series have retired all 19 batters.
“The good thing is we’re able to spread the load around because everybody seems to be doing their part,” Showalter said. “But that’s a direct correlation to the starting pitcher getting deep. We can shorten it up and it allows guys to stay strong and pitch three days in a row with short pitch counts like Pedro and J.J. (Jim Johnson) did the last three days. And they were instrumental in helping us win the game.”
The Orioles will make another roster move tomorrow, with outfielder Xavier Avery having his contract purchased from Norfolk.
Showalter didn’t confirm any move, but he grinned and said, “Always that potential, always that potential. We do have six starters, but I’m not sure what exactly Dan (Duquette) wants to do. We talked about it, but we’ll see.”