Brian Matusz started the day fourth in the Carolina League in strikeouts with 18 and left the game leading league. Matusz struck out eight Nationals and walked a pair, the second straight game he has accomplished that strikeout and walk line. Matusz also gave up three runs, only two were earned, on six hits. He was helped out by his defense, getting two crucial double plays on lineouts, but felt good about his performance.
"I thought it was, overall, very well today," Matusz said. "I came out of the gates throwing strikes right away, getting ahead, first-pitch strikes, which is very important, something I wanted to work on today. I was able to make good pitches to get out of some jams with some double-play balls, which was nice; a little bit of luck on my side with that part, but overall it went well. My fastball location was there today."
Matusz was able to get a first-pitch strike on 15 of the 24 batters he faced today, but two of those went out of the yard. Nationals' third base prospect Stephen King led off the fourth and sixth innings with long solo home runs on the first pitch of his at-bats. Matusz also allowed a batter to reach in every inning, but had a one-two-three first by picking off National's leadoff batter Francisco Plasencia and getting the next two outs in order.
The Nationals on the base paths wreaked havoc as they executed two double-steals against Matusz. On the second, the throw down to third by catcher Wally Crancer was high and behind Tyler Henson and sailed into left, allowing Nationals' catcher Brian Peacock to score, that run was unearned. Matusz acknowledged that he does need some work on holding runners.
"[The Potomac Nationals] are very aggressive on the bases and I was trying to mix it up with guys on second base, but at times I got a little bit lazy and ignored them a little bit and they were able to get good jumps," Matusz explained. "It's part of the game I need to work on. Being in the Minor Leagues, being able to work on little things like that, it's important. It will come back later on in the games to get you, the higher up in the levels you go some guys will be more aggressive, so that's something I need to work on, holding guys at second base."
The Keys got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, sending 11 to the plate, to give Matusz some run support. Billy Rowell led off the inning with an opposite field base hit to left and then Kraig Binick was hit for the second time in the game. After a fly-out, the Keys loaded the bases on a single to right from Wally Crancer.
Pedro Florimon hit a chopper that bounced over the Nationals' first baseman, but it was ruled foul. He then grounded into a fielder's choice, but the throw to second sailed over the shortstop's head, so everyone was safe. Billy Rowell scored the first run.
Later on in the inning, Tyler Henson blew the game wide open with a double, driving in Matt Angle and Matt Tucker on a line drive to left for the fifth and sixth runs of the inning. It turned out that was all the Keys would need. Henson, who led the Hawaiian League in doubles this past fall, has been in a slump to start the season, but came through in a big spot.
"I knew the pitcher was going to throw an off-speed pitch, so I sat on it and put a good swing on it and it found a hole, finally," Henson said.
Luis Lebron came on in the top of the ninth with the Keys up by three and nailed down the save, his second of the year, pitching a scoreless ninth.
"I knew we'd win one," Keys' manager Richie Hebner said after his team's first home win. "We've got 60-some more games left, I figured we'd win one sooner or later."
Four Frederick Keys were hit today, well, three. Kraig Binick was hit twice. He had had a single and just missed an extra base hit as he was Nationals' centerfielder Francisco Plasencia made a great over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track in deep center. The four hit-batsmen was one shy of a Keys record for one game, five were hit in a game in 1997.
Pedro Florimon had a single in his first at-bat and just missed his second as a chopper over the first base bag was ruled foul. He has now hit safely in all but two of the games he has played in.