Last night’s game vs. the Texas Rangers played in Arlington was the second instance this season where we have seen the raw side of Brian Matusz. We saw the side of him where he is just a vulnerable lefty with nothing more special than the next guy coming in. The first instance? In Minnesota. He seems to not be able to handle lineups that are over the top stacked with power and patience. The Twins and Rangers probably can both be considered in the top five for hitting teams in baseball. With Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vladdy, and even second year shortstop Elvis Andrus, some people may say that this lineup is just as productive as the Yankees, if not more. The Yankees are not too quick, and are getting older by the day. Like the Rays, the Rangers are mostly a young team full of bursts of incredible talent.
Speaking of the Yankees, Matusz faced them back at the end of April. He let up 3 earned runs and allowed 9 hits over 6 IP with only 2 strikeout but no walks. While Major League Baseball would count this in the stats as a quality start, it was not the top quality we were looking for out of the rookie of the year candidate. His 2 wins on the year are over the Rays and A’s. He beat the Rays in the O’s third game of the year, where we had just lost our first two in Tampa and came out with fight to get a much needed W coming into the Opening Weekend homestand. Oakland is just bad. Other than those 2 wins, Matusz has still pitched quite well frequently. Because of the Orioles lack of any offense ever it seems, Brian’s 1 run 6 inning performance in New York (vs. Yankees) and shutout 7 innings against the Indians at home this past weekend go without notice because he does not end up with the W. In New York, the loss was due to the Orioles only scoring one run in the entire game, giving Matusz such a lean amount of run support to work with. Back at home, he had the W going through 7 innings with a 2-0 lead before the bullpen blew the game, and Matusz ended up with the no decision there. Both times though, bullpen to be blamed partially or not, the run support just has not been there to back this guy up.
After last night’s lousy outing of 2.1 IP, Matusz’ ERA is now up to a sub-par 5.26. He allowed 7 runs on 8 hits in his short stint, with 2 strikeouts and 1 walk. The true killer, though, was the fact that he let 2 homeruns sail out of the park which accounted for 5 of the 7 runs. The problem last night for him was that he lost control of his fastball and just did not seem to have the velocity behind any of his pitches as compared to what we have seen in the past. His curveball showed good movement, but once again, velocity was down, making it very vulnerable to a contact hitter. As opposed to a guy like Tim Wakefield, Matusz does not have the movement or command needed to be able to lessen the speed behind his pitches, so last night the Rangers capitalized on the fact that he was pitching behind hitters and never really setting a tone.
As he said in his post-game interview, he was not on top of his stuff one bit. It was one of those games as a rookie that gets away from you early that you can never catch up with. As Bergesen said in his interview once: out of every 10 games you pitch, there will be 2 good, 2 bad, and 6 average ones in the middle. This was one of his bad ones. If that theory is true, then his next start would have to fall into the average category.
I also would not put it past him that his mindset was no on target. He seems very calm and collected when talking, one of the chillest guys ever in my opinion, but the last few weeks have been rocky for him. He got the harsh loss in Minnesota after letting up 6 runs off of 9 hits in 3.2 innings, but then followed that up with a brilliant performance against Cleveland this past weekend. The fact that he battled back from a setback to his solid beginning of the season is marvelous for a young guy like him, but I don’t blame him if he got a bit anxious or even upset with the outcome of Saturday’s game. If that game gave him trust issues with the guys coming in after him to close it, then this issue could have been sitting on his mind all night. If he is focusing more on the follow-up performances by his teammates in the bullpen, he loses the concentration he needs to have in order to have a successful game against a lineup like the Rangers that he had to face.
I wish him luck next week against the A’s in Baltimore. Hopefully he can bounce back and shine against a team he already beat earlier this season.