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Many see Matusz breaking-out in 2011.

Orioles enter another tough stretch

Before going any further, I want to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day. I feel that we often see holidays like this as a day off from work, and in this case the beginning of the summer season. However we also should stop and remember why we celebrate today as a holiday. People died in foreign wars so that we could have the freedom to do what we do today and everyday. My late grandmother lost a brother in World War II. It’s my understanding that the task fell on her to write the somber letters home to the relatives back in Italy saying that her brother had been killed. It’s stories like that and many others like it that we should remember today as we’re grilling with our families, and watching baseball. A big debt of gratitude goes out to our wonderful military, and of course to all of our veterans (alive and deceased).

The Orioles have now lost back-to-back series’ for the first time in 2012, and thus they’re coming off of a homestand where they went 2-4. I suppose I would file that under the category of “it happens.” This past weekend was supposed to be a coming-out party of sorts for the O’s in that Adam Jones was signing his new contract. However someone forgot to tell the Kansas City Royals about that; the Royals played hard all weekend long and took two-of-three in the series. That’s to their credit. Brian Matusz wasn’t perfect, however he probably pitched well enough to win yesterday. Matusz pitched six innings, and gave up four runs (three earned) over seven hits and one walk (fanning six). Did he deserve better? Yes, but that’s part of the game. Many see Matusz breaking-out in 2011.

After the game Buck Showalter said that the loss was more on the inability to get anything going offensively than the pitching. Xavier Avery has been acting as the lead-off hitter for the better part of the time since he’s been up in the big leagues, and in the last week he’s gone from hitting .313 to .228. Spanning from Sunday to Sunday, Avery is 6-for-29; not exactly what you’d expect out of a lead-off guy. However let’s keep in mind that Avery is only 22 years old and a rookie at that. However the fact is that the Birds don’t have that trend-setter batting lead-off right now. When Avery does get on base he’s fast as lightning and he makes things happen. A lead-off guy that can get on base streamlines the entire offense, and that’s what the Orioles need right now.

As a team, the O’s were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position yesterday. (In fact, the one time they came through with RISP was Avery singling Robert Andino home.) That’s not going to win you many games. Hitting with RISP has been a long-standing issue for this team over the past few years. Of late it’s been masked by the long ball, however the Birds also are missing guys such as Mark Reynolds (a home run threat) and Endy Chavez (who can spray the ball all around the field) right now. During yesterday’s game I noticed that Stu Pomeranz started to warm in the Orioles’ pen only to abruptly sit down which I found odd. Afterwards we found out that Pomeranz had pulled an oblique muscle, and is probably headed to the DL. Buck Showalter said that it’s unclear whether or not the O’s will bring up a position player or a reliever at this time, however Pomeranz stayed back in Baltimore while the team flew to Toronto last night. My personal opinion is that either Reynolds or Chavez will be the corresponding roster move once Pomeranz heads to the DL.

The Orioles will open up a tough stretch with nine games on the road, all in the AL East. Three in Toronto, three in Tampa, and three in Boston make the next week-and-a-half nine big games in a row. If there’s one advantage for the Orioles it’s that they get to play this evening as opposed to under the blonde sunshine today which keeps them on a “normal” schedule. Many teams play afternoon games on Memorial Day, however since it’s not a holiday in Canada the Jays scheduled the game at their normal Monday night time. For whatever small advantage that gives the Birds (and Toronto of course) to stay on schedule, they’ll take it.

Tommy Hunter gets the ball tonight for the O’s, not having won a game since April 24th. Hunter seems to be teetering gingerly between being sent back to the minors and staying with the club. This could be a big start for him seeing that Zach Britton is nearing a return. Hunter will be opposed by Drew Hutchinson, who’s had similar struggles. This Toronto team is reeling right now after getting beaten around in Texas at the hands of the Rangers this weekend. Hutchinson only allowed two runs in his last start against the O’s, however he also has an ERA of 5.73. This could be a good opportunity for those Oriole bats to come to life a bit.

As I said, this stretch of nine games is huge for the O’s. The good news is that they’ve played well on the road and they’ve played well in the AL East. However all of that is of no matter right now, because the only thing that matters at the moment is tonight’s game. Here’s to a great Memorial Day for all with friends and family, capped off by the O’s in Toronto this evening!

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

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Tags: Brian Matusz Orioles

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