Matusz almost unhittable at Bowie
Allows infield single, strikes out 11 over eight innings
Ask Brian Matusz to reflect on Tuesday's 6-0 win over the Harrisburg Senators and the left-hander barely mentions the fact he allowed one hit over eight innings.
Ditto for his 11 strikeouts, the most by a Baysox pitcher since fellow Futures Game participant Chris Tillman fanned 11 last Aug. 8.
Instead, Matusz, the fourth overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, is far more eager to talk about Tuesday's walk total and the goose egg that preceded it.
"Not walking a guy in the game is the best feeling ever," he said. "[Tuesday] was the first start I've had all year where I haven't walked a batter."
Of course, the 22-year-old University of San Diego standout did more than just avoid the free pass. Matusz constantly kept the Senators guessing, throwing nine of his first 11 pitches for strikes in an emphatic opening inning. The southpaw used his mid-90s fastball early and often, registered first-pitch strikes to 18 of the first 25 batters he faced and did not throw four balls in an inning until the fifth.
"The main emphasis is to establish the fastball early on in the game and really work on that," Matusz said. "[Catcher Adam Donachie] and I have been working really well together, being able to read hitters' bats, read how approaches are and take it as the game goes on."
Matusz, who was promoted to the Double-A Eastern League in mid-June, credits his relationship with Donachie for smoothing the transition to Bowie. In four starts with the Baysox, he's 4-0 with a miniscule 0.34 ERA over 26 1/3 innings.
Tuesday night was just another example.
"We were on the same page tonight, Adam and me," Matusz said.
And it might as well have been written in a foreign language for the Senators.
The only hit off Matusz came in the fourth, when Michael Martinez bounced a ball off the glove of diving third baseman Mike Costanzo. The ball never left the infield, but it tarnished Matusz's no-hit bid. He responded by getting Michael Daniel to ground into a double play two pitches later.
Martinez's infield single was the lone blemish against Matusz, who mixed in first-pitch breaking balls and devastating changeups to keep Harrisburg off-balance and missing.
With a six-run cushion, Matusz fanned six of the final nine batters en route, lowering his opponents' average to .122. While acknowledging a complete game would have been nice, he was quick to side with the Orioles and the organization's focus on the big picture.
"It would have been a little different if it was a no-hitter or in the Major League [level]," Matusz said of extending his 98-pitch outing. "But the most important thing is to stay healthy."
A close second is maintaining the consistency that turns touted prospects into top-of-the-rotation pitchers.
"The one thing that sticks out that has been a main part of my success is [fastball command]," Matusz said. "It's just a matter of maintaining and staying consistent."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.