The Indians lost five straight games before arriving in Baltimore, but they took three of four in this series.
Brian Matusz gave up five runs (four earned) and seven hits in four innings and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. He hasn’t been the same pitcher since holding the Rays to one run and two hits in 7 1/3 innings back on June 2.
“The same thing that Miguel (Gonzalez) did really well, he hasn’t been able to do, and that’s command his fastball,” said manager Buck Showalter. “The more I’m around this level, you realize how much everything revolves around that. Once you’re able to do that, a lot of things open to you.
“He made some quality pitches, but then he’d make an 0-2, 1-2 pitch, he’s elevating the ball a lot like Dana (Eveland) did yesterday. You’re not going to give yourself much chance for success if you’re doing that.”
Is Matusz frustrated?
“Probably not outwardly, but obviously inside,” Showalter said. “He’s human, he understands what this team needs and part of the reason why we’ve had some success early in the season and why we’re not now. Nobody wants to be a part of that, so I’m sure he’s not walking around showing. But he’s certainly got those emotions inside. He understands the level he’s got to pitch at for us to be successful as a team.
“Outings like that, you can withstand them here and there, but when you consistently have two or three days like that, it’s, I don’t want to say an energy-sapper, but it kind of gets back to what makes you struggle as a team. It takes you away from getting any flow.
“He’s not the only guy that’s had some struggles. I don’t want to hang it all on Brian. We’ve had some other people that, just statistically looking at it, you know they’ve got to be better.
“Especially on days like the last three days weather-wise, sitting out there in the field, standing out there for those long periods of time is really a challenge. It’s something you can overcome here and there, but when it happens more days than it should it wears on you.”
Gonzalez was outstanding, allowing only one run in 4 1/3 innings and saving the bullpen from additional wear and tear.
“He did what we had hoped Tommy (Hunter) would have done yesterday,” Showalter said. “I think he threw 87 pitches last time out and you’ve got to add a few on there in the conditions he was doing it in today. He deserved even better when he gets a broken bat single there to left field. Kevin (Gregg) came in and got a big groundball.
“Miguel put us in a position to be more competitive out of the bullpen the next two days. Hopefully, you know our feelings on protecting bullpen, we’ll continue to do what it takes. The flip side of that is we’re going to need somebody. ... You make a mistake going in assuming somebody of ours who’s starting is going to do deep into a game, but we’re in a semi-position to cover a little bit out of our pen.
“I wanted to stay away from Troy (Patton) today, and a couple of other guys, but hopefully what Miguel did today will bode well for us the next few days.”
Showalter figures that Matusz’s confidence has to be shaken.
“Sure, of course it is,” he said. “You’ve done the second-guessing, you try to go in there with a real positive outlook and let it rip and then something happens on the field that challenges you. unfortunately, with the challenges in play, between Triple-A and here, doing something well statistically doesn’t always mean it’s going to come back. And Brian’s had it at times and hopefully he will again.”
The Indians were pretty bad against left-handed pitching before this series. The Orioles started three left-handers.
“How’d that work out?” Showalter asked. “They’re such a good offensive team, if you look at some of their splits through their minor league and major league teams, it’s not something that should continue. Unfortunately, it didn’t here.
“You couple that with us not pitching well. It doesn’t matter if you’re left-handed, right-handed or throwing them between your legs, if you put them where we’re throwing some of them, you’re going to get hurt.”
Showalter’s session with the media ended on a pleasant note when he got the chance to talk about three of his players - Adam Jones, Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters - being selected for the All-Star Game, and Jason Hammel having a chance to join them.
“I’m extremely proud of them and all are richly deserving and I applaud the players around the league for recognizing that,” Showalter said. “Obviously, they like to be thought well of by the fans, but players, I think the respect of your peers is very important. And also those guys are looking to take the best players to give your league a chance to win. I try to keep that in mind, and you know Ron Washington has got three good guys to help that club.
“They’re looking forward to not just going there, but to helping the American League win. It’s probably as enjoyable as anything I’ve been able to do this year.”