If you looked solely at Brian Matusz's line in the Orioles' 8-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics last night - six earned runs on eight hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings - you'd conclude that the young lefty had another forgettable outing in his return to the big leagues.
However, the guys Matusz shares a clubhouse with would disagree with that conclusion.
"I saw a lot of positives," said catcher Matt Wieters. "I thought he was probably a few good changeups away from no runs given up in that game instead of what happened. His fastball had good life, and his breaking stuff was back to being sharp. There are still a lot of positives that he could take out of that game."Orioles manager Buck Showalter agreed, saying, "I thought he deserved a lot better than what the line may read. You look at some of the hits that fell in on him. I thought he held his stuff well, too. He looked pretty strong physically which was good to see. He just seemed strong mentally and physically tonight. That was fun to watch. If he pitches more like that, he'll come out ahead in a lot of those games."
All-in-all, it was an uneven outing for Matusz, who was making his first big-league start since June 30.
First the positives: Matusz's velocity was up a little bit - his fastball mostly sat between 88 and 90 miles per hour - but more important than that, Wieters said that it had some life to it that was lacking earlier this season. Matusz also threw some really good curveballs, and struck out a season-high five. And finally, Matusz looked much stronger physically. He threw 109 pitches, 19 more than any other of his big league outings this season, and was one pitch away from getting through the seventh inning.
Now the negatives: Matusz's command was an issue as he walked three of the first eight batters that he faced. His changeup, which is a serious weapon when it's right, wasn't sharp at all and the one that he threw to Josh Willingham, who destroyed it into the left-field seats, might as well have been put on a tee. Also disappointing was how he got two quick outs in a one-run game in the seventh inning, but couldn't finish the inning off. He allowed back-to-back singles. Troy Patton then relieved him and surrendered a two-run double to Coco Crisp and an RBI single to Hideki Matsui.
Instead of the Orioles trailing 4-3 heading into the top of the eighth, they were behind 7-3. Instead of Matusz having allowed only four earned runs and six hitts over 6 2/3 innings, he had allowed six earned and eight hits.
The end result of his outing could have been much better, but the Orioles have also seen their young lefty fare significantly worse. All-in-all, they said that they were encouraged by his performance as was Matusz.
"I've made a lot of strides, had a good feel for all my pitches today, just being able to locate a little bit better," Matusz said . "You got to build off every outing. It's definitely exciting coming back, the first outing out here in a while, lot of nerves coming out from the get go. But, pretty happy about being able to go deep."