Matusz Struggles Again in Rout by Rangers
Coming off an impressive 5-1 road trip, including the first sweep in Boston in about ten years, the Orioles’ (19-10) spirits were high as they headed back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to start a three-game set with the defending American League Champs, Texas Rangers (19-10).
However, the mood quickly changed after Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz (1-4, 5.91 ERA) took the hill.
Matusz, again, struggled and the Birds played as if they had a mental lapse and reverted back to last season; they did not perform like a first-place team last night.
Maybe it was just an off night, and the Orioles have not had too many of those this season, but there might be cause for concern over Matusz and whether he can make it at the major league level.
The southpaw lasted just five innings and surrendered seven earned runs on 10 base hits, four strike outs and two walks. The good news is that Matusz has cut down his number of walks over his last three outings. But, that’s about it.
After two much-improved outings against the Jays, and most recently the Yankees, Matusz entered the game seeking his second win in the last 11 months. He picked up his first win of the season against the Yankees last time out as he tossed 6.1 innings and allowed just one earned run.
This season has been a struggle for him so far. In his first three outings, he allowed at least four earned runs, and five earned one time. Then, he turned it around and looked like a different pitcher after he allowed just one earned run in two starts.
Now, another step back. Matusz continues to go up and down for the Birds; one of his problems has always been consistency, and it’s rearing its ugly head again.
Tommy Hunter was optioned to AAA Norfolk after Sunday afternoon’s rough start against the Red Sox, so Matusz better be careful if he wants to stay in the majors; it might be a good idea for him to be demoted and work on his stuff at the lower level.
The Rangers are one of the toughest teams in baseball, and we all know they have tremendous power. However, this time, it came from an unlikely source: Brandon Synder.
Yes, former Oriole Snyder came up big last night for his new team.
Snyder, hitting out of the eight hole, went 3-for-5 with 6 RBI, including one home run and two runs scored in the Rangers win. The Orioles drafted him in the first round of the ’05 draft and he played in 16 major league games wearing the black and orange.
As for offense, Robert Andino smashed his third home run of the season to get the Birds on the board, while Wilson Betemit came through with his fourth home run on the year, a two-run shot, to cut the deficit to 7-3 at that point.
J.J. Hardy put together another strong performance as he collected three hits on Monday night, after he recorded five hits on Sunday afternoon; his average now sits at .235, which jumped up from around .170 last week.
The Birds looked very sloppy last night, and after an error in the 9 th, only two of the seven runs allowed by the pen were earned. Last night was the most runs allowed by the Birds since last July against the Bronx Bombers when they lost 17-3.
After winning 10 of their last 12 games against the Jays, A’s, Yankees and Red Sox, it looked as if it was going to be a fun match-up of first-place teams. However, it was anything but that.
Preview Game 2
Tonight the Orioles and Rangers pick up where they left off last night in game two of the three-game set.
Former closer/reliever Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.81 ERA) will take the mound for Texas, while the Birds will send their ace, Jake Arrieta (2-2, 3.52 ERA), to the hill in search of this third win of the year.
Feliz has pitched seven career innings against the Orioles with an inflated 6.43 ERA. Arrieta is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA and 16.1 innings pitched over his three career outings against the Rangers.
Arrieta is coming off of one of his best performances of his career as he tossed eight-scoreless innings against the Yankees in a 5-0 defeat on Wednesday night. He scattered five base hits, and was in control the entire game.
Feliz, on the other hand, struggled in his last contest; he tossed just five + innings, allowed four earned runs on four hits and a career-high six walks.
Adam Jones is the only Orioles with a hit off of Feliz. On the other side, many Rangers have experience and at-bats against Arrieta. Mike Napoli is 2-for-2 with a home run, Mitch Moreland is 2-for-3 with a home run and Elvis Andrus is 3-for-7, among others.
Both teams are 19-10, and vying for first place in their respective divisions.
The Orioles are hitting .253 with 134 runs scored and 256 hits while the Rangers are hitting .291 with 160 runs scored and 299 base hits. Yet, both teams have won 19 games.
Pitching-wise, the Orioles sport a 2.99 team ERA as they have allowed 244 base hits and a .238 opponent batting average, while the Rangers’ team ERA sits at 3.25 as they’ve surrendered only 227 base hits and opponents are hitting .235 off of their staff.
It will be an interesting game tonight, a battle of two of the hottest teams in baseball. It’s hard to believe the Orioles are mentioned in that sentence. Let’s see if they can prove they deserve to be considered as a top contender this season.
By: Alex Van Rees
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