When the Orioles were slumping, Brian Matusz was their only good starter. Now that they're trying to win a few games, can he continue to be a good starter? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Orioles enter tonight's game with a chance to record their second three-game series sweep of Boston this season. Twitter was abuzz earlier today with this fact: in all the time that the O's franchise has existed (going back to the days as the St. Louis Browns), they have never pulled off two three-game series sweeps in Boston within a single season. So tonight they could accomplish something that has never been done by this franchise dating back to 1901.
To do this, they will need to beat Clay Buchholz, who has faced them twice this year and given up five earned runs in both of those starts. The last such start between Clay and the Orioles in Boston was the 17-inning game that ultimately had Chris Davis as the winning pitcher and Darnell McDonald as the losing one. You wouldn't know it if you looked at his won-loss record (5-2), but Buchholz has had something of a tough year. He is sitting on a 6.58 ERA. Three of his five wins came in games where he allowed five or more earned runs. Strikeout rate is a career low, walk rate and home run rate are career highs. Yet our counterparts over at Over the Monster are writing articles about how he is continuing to improve on the strength of using a change-up more often than a curveball.
Maybe they are even right. We can be sure that if we watch the MASN broadcast we will eventually see a pie chart breaking down what percentage of each pitch Buchholz has been throwing this year. He could work that and pitch a great game tonight - although Josh Beckett did great last night and his team still lost. So either the Orioles' luck will run out or their luck will keep going, which means that until the game starts, the Orioles' luck has both run out and kept going. If you think about it, baseball is a months-long Schrodinger's Cat experiment that repeats on a daily basis.
Another subject in tonight's experiment is Brian Matusz. Earlier this season I was dismissing his chances of ever being a decent major league pitcher. Now six of his last eight starts have been quality starts. The last time he faced Boston, he struck out nine over 6.1 IP. For Matusz the key is the same as it has ever been: command. If he can locate his arsenal of pitches, then he can be a good pitcher. If he misses with lifeless fastballs, then he will give up too many walks, and if he hangs sliders, he will give up too many home runs, problems which have both plagued him at times this season, though much less than last season.
He will face a desperate and hungry Boston lineup, a team seeking to stave off sinking below .500 once again. He will have the usual Orioles patchwork defense behind him, and the usual Orioles patchwork offense supporting him. If we see the Brian that we saw on May 22, the last time he faced Boston, then it should be a good night.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||BOSTON RED SOX|
|Endy Chavez - RF||Daniel Nava - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Dustin Pedroia - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Kevin Youkilis - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||David Ortiz - DH|
|Chris Davis - DH||Will Middlebrooks - 3B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Adrian Gonzalez - RF|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Mike Aviles - SS|
|Ryan Flaherty - LF||Darnell McDonald - CF|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Kelly Shoppach - C|