He lost his control for a little bit in the second inning, walking a batter and throwing a first-pitch strike to only two of the six batters he faced. With runners on first and second, a ball got away from catcher Adam Donachie, ruled a passed ball, to allow the runners to advance. Matusz then gave up a soft single to score one run, the only one he would give up in the Baysox 4-1 win.
"You know, I was pretty nervous going into today," Matusz admitted after the start. "I was just really excited to be up here in Double-A, in Bowie. I thought I came out of the gate throwing strikes in the first inning. I was really happy about that first inning. Then, in the second and third innings I wasn't getting ahead of hitters. In the second inning, walking that guy, I would love to have that back."
He was able to settle down after laboring through the second inning, going on to retire 13 batters in a row after giving up the run. During that span, Matusz struck out seven of nine batters from the third through the fifth inning. All of his pitches were working well tonight, spotting his fastball at 90-91 mph consistently and throwing his slider hard at 80-83 mph. He recorded strikeouts with all four of his pitches.
"I thought I wasn't dominating with just one pitch," Matusz said. "I thought all four were fairly consistent throughout the entire game. I think that's what's really important, obviously. When you have four pitches going, it's a lot easier."
Bowie's pitching coach Larry McCall liked what he saw from his new lefty pitcher. He preaches throwing strikes over velocity, and Matusz only walked one batter tonight, the third straight start he has walked just one batter. He had not seen Matusz pitch since spring training and was excited to have Matusz and his four pitches in the Bowie rotation.
"I saw him in big league camp and [he was] very impressive in big league camp, but he was just as impressive tonight," McCall Said. "I thought he was rushing a little bit the first couple of innings, maybe trying to do a little too much, but really got in a good rhythm in the middle innings."
"He threw four pitches for strikes. He showed a really good changeup, located his fastball well... he was very impressive in his first start."
Matusz only threw 89 pitches in six innings and he said he felt like he could have gone out for the seventh inning. As for McCall, he said there was no hesitation to take him out. The Baysox bullpen has been impressive lately and McCall cited that, as well as nearing 90 pitches as a reason to get him out of the game. Chad Thall and Ryohei Tanaka came in to throw three scoreless innings of relief to close out the game and secure a win for Matusz.
In addition to Matusz having good command and a solid bullpen behind him, Matusz had a good working relationship with Donachie behind the plate. Him and Donachie said they talked together in the dugout Tuesday night while Donachie had the night off, discussing which pitches Matusz likes to throw in different situations. Needless to say, Donachie was impressed.
"He likes to talk during the game, so we sat down and he kind of explained what he wanted to do, he went out there and did everything he wanted to do and he executed everything," Donachie said.
Donachie was not just influential behind the plate, he swung a big stick Wednesday night too. He came up with a big two-run home run in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Donachie also drove in another run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Baysox a 4-1 advantage.
"I was in a little funk for a while and went in the cage for four days in a row with [bench coach Moe Hill] and he got me squared away," Donachie said. "I'm just starting to barrel some balls and it's working out so far."
In the end, while Donachie had a three-RBI game, the night belonged to Matusz.
"It's an exciting moment for me and I'm really happy to be here now," Matusz said, despite having to cancel Carolina/California league All Star Game plans in California. He thought he might get promoted after the break and would have a chance to pitch in front of family and friends in California, but it was worth the change in plans. If he had a choice to play in the exhibition or in Bowie, he would choose Bowie.
"It's too hard to turn down that type of opportunity, there's just no way" Matusz said. "Obviously I wanted to get here as soon as possible and it worked out well."
His former manager in Frederick, Richie Hebner, has said Matusz is "on a mission" to the big leagues, and Wednesday night, Matusz brought his mission one step closer to Baltimore.