The invasion of the planet Earth by the pod people from outer space has begun. Their first victim is Brian Matusz. The Orioles pitcher started the game against the Rays on Saturday afternoon and he pitched three scoreless innings with three strikeouts, retiring both lefties and righties. I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.
We can't get too carried away, of course, because it is only March 14. Opening Day is still a little more than three weeks away and this was a road game for the Rays, meaning it was not what you would call their A-list lineup. So in the same way that it doesn't matter that the O's hitters were no-hit until the sixth inning and only got four hits in the entire game, you have to take Matusz's performance with a grain of salt.
Still, better to see good results that don't count than bad ones. Good results from a pitcher who figures to be a part of the roster all year, anyway, although even with that, you never know. Opening up the MASN telecast of the game, Gary Thorne referred to scouts in the stands who may have been there to watch Matusz, among others, with the possibility of looking at him as a starter.
They still didn't win the game, falling to 3-10 in the Grapefruit League with a 3-2 loss. Rays catcher Rene Rivera hit a two-run shot off of Tim Berry in the fourth inning to put the Rays up 2-0. Berry gave up the two runs on three hits and a walk in two innings. Not the way to audition for the big league team. Tampa Bay added another run off of Chaz Roe in the sixth. Roe only pitched an inning, surrendering a run on three hits. Each has an ERA of 9 so far this spring.
Despite only getting the four hits, O's hitters managed to grab a run each in the sixth and seventh innings. Rey Navarro reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the sixth. He came around to score on a double hit by J.J. Hardy. The play at the plate was very close, with Navarro only being safe because the catcher dropped the ball. The windmill lives. Hardy, in scoring position, was unable to score when both Chris Davis and Adam Jones made outs behind him.
Steve Pearce blasted his first home run of spring to make it a 3-2 game. Pearce went and got a breaking pitch and drove it out into the left field seats in Sarasota. That, too, was good to see.
The theme of this spring is that you have to look for the good where you can find it. Two scoreless innings pitched by Rule 5 pick Logan Verrett certainly counts as something good. Verrett struck out two while allowing only one hit in his latest spring appearance. Wesley Wright, who seems to be in competition for Matusz for the role of lefty in the bullpen, added a scoreless ninth for the O's.
While all of this was going on, there was another game being played on the back fields of Sarasota, with some O's veterans and minor leaguers playing an exhibition against a team made up of Puerto Rican players. Matt Wieters was catching in the game, although there were some funny rules, namely that no one would be stealing in the game. Also, the Orioles had three DHs in their lineup. That happened.
Nothing counts until April 6. They'll probably start scoring eventually, or so we can only hope.
Next up for the O's is a 1:05 game on Sunday on the road against the Pirates. This game will be on MLB Network with Pirates announcers, and also on the radio in Baltimore on 105.7 FM.