If you watched the Orioles game tonight or any ESPN at all, you no doubt heard that a Boston loss or a Tampa Bay win would clinch a playoff spot, although whether as the division leader or wild card remains to be seen. Boston won tonight, so it was up to the Rays to take control of their own destiny. One thing stood in their way, however, and that thing was Brian Matusz.
Matusz has looked very good of late and tonight was no exception. He pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits and zero runs. He walked two and struck out eight, earning his ninth win on the year.
Matusz had to overcome some trouble in the first inning thanks to a "hit by pitch" and some poor defense. After striking out B.J. Upton to start things off, a Jason Bartlett single went under Nick Markakis' glove, allowing Bartlett to go to second. He moved to third on a ground out by Carl Crawford and then Matusz hit Willy Aybar, though the ball the barely grazed his uniform. He came back strong, though, striking out Ben Zobrist to end the inning.
After that Matusz settled down and retired the side on order in the second, third, and fourth innings. In the fifth, however, he ran into some trouble. Kelly Shoppach singled and Carlos Pena walked, but Matusz then struck out the next two before allowing an infield single to B.J. Upton to load the bases. Bartlett grounded to third, though, and Ty Wigginton made a silly looking tag of Pena as he ran towards third.
That was Matusz's only real jam on the day as he allowed just one more base runner to reach in the next two innings, a walk to Ben Zobrist in the sixth inning. When it was all said and done, Matusz had shut down the Rays and their hopes of clinching a spot in the playoffs tonight. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara backed up Matusz's fine day with one perfect inning each, Koji's punctuated by three strikeouts.
Wade Davis pitched for the Rays tonight, having owned the O's in four career starts since last year. Tonight, however, would be different. He stymied the offense until the fifth inning when Cesar Izturis reached with a one out double and came home on a triple by Nick Markakis. That made the score 1-0, but the O's weren't finished. In the seventh, Felix Pie and Izzy reached with none out, and then BRIAN ROBERTS BUNTED AGAIN. Well, he tried. Honestly, people, WHAT is going on here? Why is Brian bunting? It is wholly unacceptable.
Davis didn't cooperate, throwing balls to Roberts to keep him from bunting. Roberts got the count to 3-1 and then tried to bunt again, but the ball went foul. Runners on first and second with no outs and Brian Roberts at the plate with a 3-1 count and he bunts? What the hell? With a 3-2 count after the failed bunt, Brian lined out to centerfield for the first out.
That'd be it for Wade Davis, and he left the game in favor of Randy Choate. Choate faced Markakis, and Nicky greeted him with a single to right field. The third base coach Allenson did Juan Samuel proud by waving Felix in despite the fact that the RF Zobrist had the ball before Pie even reached third. A perfect throw would have gotten him, but Kelly Shoppach dropped the ball and Felix stumbled to the plate for the second run of the game. Wiggy then scored Izzy on a sacrifice fly, prompting Jim Palmer to say, "There's no better player than Wigginton at knocking in batters." Honestly, Jim? Nick moved up to third on the sac fly and scored on a single by Luke Scott, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead, which was more than enough for Brian Matusz.
Tomorrow Brad Bergesen and will pitch against David Price as the Rays continue their quest for the playoffs. Not a great matchup on paper, but Bergy has been spreading Bird Flu left and right. Hopefully he'll continue that trend.