Tigers 10, Orioles 6: A tale of two misused players

Nolan Reimold #14 of the Baltimore Orioles is congradulated by Robert Andino #11 after hitting a three run home run in the eighth ining during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 25, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.

The Orioles today sent Brian Matusz to the mound, a decision thought by many to be awful. Buck Showalter spoke of giving Matusz a confidence boost to end the season, but for the doubters out there it seemed the only possible outcome was another kick in the ribs to Matusz, whose season has been the most brutal for a starting pitcher that I've ever seen. 

In an effort to give Matusz this so-called confidence boost, Showalter put out a lineup so putrid I can hardly believe that it found its way into a major-league baseball game to support him. Of the nine players in the lineup, only two of them (Vladimir Guerrero and Robert Andino) have played in over 100 games this season. Six of them have played in 30 or less games for the Orioles this season. And the ninth player, Nolan Reimold, has played in 84 games (but only 73 starts). 

In short, there was a hole lot of crazy going on for the Orioles in today's game. Let's start with Matusz, who I believe never should have been given the ball today. 

In the first inning, Matusz only threw fifteen pitches but gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera. His fastball was hitting 91-92 regularly, and while it sucks to give up a homer to Cabrera, he has hit 275 (make that 276 after his blast against Matusz) in his nine-year career. 

Matusz threw twelve pitches in the second inning and retired the side in order, but he couldn't keep the good work up the third. He walked the first batter in the second inning, then allowed two one-out singles, the second of which knocked in the third run of the day. Cabrera walked after that, but Victor Martinez bailed Matusz out with double play ball. 

The Tigers didn't score in the fourth inning, but Matusz did walk another batter, making it three walks in an eight-batter span. Matusz entered the fifth inning with a precarious hold on what could be called a relatively respectable outing. Two singles and a home run from Victor Martinez later and the game was entirely different, as Matusz had once again given up more runs than innings pitched. He completed five innings for the sixth time this season and the first time since August 28th, when he also gave up six runs. I'd imagine today was quite the confidence booster. 

No matter what is wrong with Brian Matusz, what caused his troubles, and whatever he's having trouble fixing, it is beyond my capacity to understand how throwing him to the wolves today and last week against the Red Sox could do any good at all. None of us can know Matusz's mental state right now, but we do know that this is the first time in his baseball career that he has struggled like this, and that has to get into his head. Why put him into a position where he will almost surely fail? 

But, as the title states, Matusz was just one of two misused players today. The other is Nolan Reimold. With the Orioles down 9-3 in the 8th inning, Reimold came to the plate with two runners on and hit his 13th home run of the year.  Back when the Orioles signed Vladimir Guerrero to his one-year, $8 million contract, a concern among many is what would happen to Reimold as a result. Well, today Reimold matched Vlad's home run total in just about half as many plate appearances. He has a higher slugging % and a higher on-base % than Vlad, he's a decade younger than Vlad, he makes about $400K per year, and numbers (both major and minor league) suggest he should get a chance. But he can't get regular playing time to save his life. 

The Orioles are having a pretty good run to end the season, but today's game was a little glimpse into part of what is wrong with the team. They start a big series with Boston (big for Boston and Tampa Bay, not really for them) tomorrow, and on Wednesday the season ends. 

Game notes:

  • Pedro Florimon knocked in two runs today with his major-league hit, a double to center field. 
  • Brad Bergesen relieved Matusz and didn't do much to stop the bleeding. He gave up three runs in just one inning. 
  • Jake Fox, another bench player who gets forgotten about on a regular basis, had two hits and a walk today, and scored two runs. 
  • Robert Andino only had one hit today, but he did take three (THREE!) walks. 
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