**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat tonight at 7PM as the O’s look to salvage a game in this much anticipated (well, until Albert Pujols got hurt) interleague series against the Cardinals. Tonight will be my debut running the Orange Crush chat, so go easy on me!
BALTIMORE – The Orioles will look to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals tonight at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
While much of the pre-game locker room banter centered around J.J. Hardy T-Shirt night at the Yard, the most critical storyline for the Orioles tonight will be Brian Matusz’ quest to regain not only his winning ways, but also his velocity.
Widely considered the Orioles’ best pitcher coming into the 2011 season, Matusz has struggled to regain his form since coming off the disabled list on June 1. Many believe his struggles have a lot to do with his fastball not being nearly as fast as it once was. Matusz, who in prior seasons was able to get his fastball up in the low 90s, has been unable to consistently get up past the 86/87 mph range. Buck Showalter is clearly aware of the media attention that Matusz’ lack of velocity has been garnering.
“I know what everybody is going to be looking at the first time he throws his fastball,” Showalter said.
When asked what he felt was most important for Matusz tonight, Showalter pointed to command as the key factor for Brian, even more-so than velocity.
“I think command of his secondary pitches, so that through thick or thin, he’ll be able to perform well,” Showalter said.
Buck talked about how Matusz needs to command the ball so he can hit his spots, rather than centering everything right out over the plate.
“Going through the tape, a lot of those pitches were center-cut, and that won’t be successful regardless of what you’re carrying fastball-wise,” Showalter said. ” That’s why when he has both of those things going, which he’s shown us he can do, he’s a tough proposition for the opposition.”
“I’d like to see him, regardless of what his velocity is, to still be pitching, still being able to command other pitches,” Showalter said.
The good news for Orioles fans who are concerned about Brian Matusz is that most of the questions surrounding Brian’s velocity, at least as far as tonight’s game is concerned, will be answered very soon. It’s a pretty clear-cut issue. Is Matusz getting stronger? Is he throwing harder?
“Our curiosity is going to be satisfied around 7:06 tonight,” Showalter said. “St. Louis is going to answer those questions, not some gun reading. They are the best hitting team in the National League, so it will be a good test for him.”
Here are tonight’s starting lineups:
SS: Ryan Theriot
RF: John Lay
LF: Matt Holliday
DH: Lance Berkman
3B: David Freese
CF: Colby Rasmus
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Tony Cruz
2B: Skip Schmaker
SP: Jaime Garcia
SS: JJ Hardy
RF: Nick Markakis
CF: Adam Jones
DH: Vladimir Guerrero
1B: Derrek Lee
C: Matt Wieters
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Nolan Reimold
2B: Robert Andino
SP: Brian Matusz