Granted they had the lead for a decent portion of the night, however the Orioles winning game one of the series in Atlanta just wasn’t meant to be. Several readers like to speak to my commentary of pitchers having ten good, ten bad, and ten in-between starts; count this one in that third category for Brian Matusz. His final line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 7 K. Obviously the 5.2 IP needs to change, however Matusz also threw 116 pitches. Chalk that up to guys fouling balls off, however he sprinkled nine base hits in there as well. Three of his four runs came off of homers, however the 7 K’s (over 5.2 innings) are outstanding. As I’ve noticed with Matusz all season long, his breaking pitches are dropping very nicely into the strike zone, and they froze Atlanta hitters all night. It’s when he hangs fastballs that he gets in trouble.
Atlanta took a quick 1-0 lead on McCann’s first inning solo homer, however the O’s managed to load the bases in both the second and the third. In the second inning Brian Matusz came up with the bases loaded and two outs, and grounded into a FC at second base after swinging at the first pitch. I think Matusz would be the first one to tell you that was a really lousy at-bat. In the top of the third inning MASN’s Gary Thorne said something interesting; he thinks that the time has come for interleague play to adopt AL rules across the board to prevent at-bats like that from pitchers. Granted I am willing to cut Matusz some slack on this because he’s a pitcher (although Thorne did admit that there were a few pitchers – Stephen Strasburg comes to mind – that can hit). However this is one of those cases where there’s a bit more than meets the eye in my mind. I would argue just the opposite; if the American League did away with the DH maybe we’d see fewer plate appearances like what Matusz did last night in the third. If you’re question now is whether or not I’m advocating that American League pitchers should hit regularly again, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.
Mark Reynolds reached base in the fourth on a throwing error, and he was plated by a fielder error off of Wilson Betemit’s double. Betemit later scored on Steve Pearce’s sac fly, and the Birds led 2-1. However aside from that little spurt, Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson shut down the Orioles. However the Birds are in good company, as Hanson came into the game 6-1 lifetime against American League East clubs. Hanson left the game trailing 2-1 after five innings, however in the sixth Simmons atoned for his earlier error by smacking an elevated Matusz fastball over the wall to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead. The Braves would tack on one more before it was all over, snapping a five-game Oriole winning streak.
You’re going to go through winning and losing streaks in a season of 162 games, however one good thing for the Birds is that this wasn’t necessarily a bad one. Often times in baseball when teams snap moderate to long winning streaks (4-5 games plus) that loss is a pretty ugly game. The Washington Nationals snapped a long winning streak by losing 7-2 to the NY Yankees last night in a game filled with multiple mistakes. Why do I bring that up? Isn’t a loss still a loss? Absolutely, however it shouldn’t get the Orioles down too much on themselves. They can still win this series with the Braves by taking tonight’s and tomorrow afternoon’s games before heading onto Flushing, NY to play the Mets.
In tonight’s game the Orioles will send Jason Hammel back to the mound and he’ll be opposed by Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy. Hammel had another one of those “in-between” starts last Sunday against Philadelphia, however he managed to put the Orioles in a decent position to win the game (which they did, giving Hammel a no-decision). Incidentally at 8.5 K’s per nine innings, Hammel ranks 10th in MLB. Beachy is a guy against whom the Birds might struggle to score runs, only because the rest of the league has struggled to score against him. His 1.98 ERA is outstanding, and quite frankly I’m really looking forward to seeing him pitch tonight. However of late his command has been a bit suspect, as he’s issued 13 walks through in his past four starts. Subsequently, he’s also allowed five homers in that span of time. So while teams can’t seem to score more than two runs against him, he is allowing base runners and some homers. Eventually there’ll come a game where the flood gates might open up. Just as a matter of housekeeping, tonight’s game will be shown on FOX as one of their national/regional games. FOX’s studio pregame show begins at 7 PM, with the game following at 7:15. Kenny Albert and former Oriole Bill Ripken will be on the call.
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