Brian Matusz was on the mound for the first time in Baltimore for the season and was it a great sight to see. The only thing better would be a win, and that’s exactly what he did. Although I thought he might go longer into the game, he still pitched well. He threw 90 pitches in 5 1/3 innings giving up 7 hits and 2 runs as well as walking 2 and fanning 3. The only pitch that scored the 2 runs was the 1 out 2-0 count in the top of the 4th to Adam Rosales that he hit out of the park. He managed to pitch only one 1-2-3 inning but in every other inning, he managed to get out of any trouble he did get in while limiting the damage to just 2 runs.
The bullpen, which, as I’ve mentioned, has been the only real bright side in the past few weeks, was lights out again. Jim Johnson came to the mound in the 6th after Matusz gave up consecutive one-out singles to get the double play. He also pitched a perfect 7th inning. Set-up man Koji Uehara retired the side in the 8th with a strikeout and Kevin Gregg struck out 2 in a perfect 9th to get his 11th save this season.
As for the offense, they scored early and often. It wasn’t an 8 or 10 run blowout but the hits piled on inning after inning and the O’s took advantage of it when they had to. In the 1st, Andino singled to lead-off the inning. He advanced to 3rd after a fielder’s choice and double play that ended up not being a double play due to an error, but before the inning ended, Vladdy singled to score Andino giving the O’s the early 1-0 advantage. In the 2nd, Derrek Lee got a lead-off single, stole 2nd, and reached 3rd on a throwing error. Right after that, Matt Wieters hit an RBI single to put the O’s up 2-0. J.J. Hardy followed with a single and they both advanced a base on a wild pitch by Gio Gonzalez. Mark Reynolds then got issued a free pass to load the bases with no outs. Nolan Reimold hit a sac fly to score Wieters making it 3-0. Andino bunted out in foul territory and Nick Markakis hit an RBI single to score Hardy making it 4-0 before Adam Jones popped out to end the inning. Though the O’s didn’t score any more runs, they did get 3 more hits making the total number of hits 9. Nick Markakis has hit in 160 consecutive series which leads everyone in the majors. That’s a pretty great thing to accomplish.
The O’s needed this win and they still need AT LEAST one more in this series. They sit at 27-31 and 6.5 games back. Hopefully, slowly but surely, they begin to chip away at that number. Sweeping in this series is ideal, but I feel very strongly that one win in the next 2 games is very important to the rest of the season. It may not seem like a big series..it is Oakland…but, I don’t know, something about it feels important and season-changing. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.