Buck Showalter confirmed after last night’s 9-6 loss to Philadelphia that Tommy Hunter will be starting this afternoon’s game (against the Phillies). In order for that to be the case, the Orioles will have to recall him from triple-A Norfolk, and make a corresponding roster move. Will that move be to send Jake Arrieta to Norfolk? In my opinion, yes. I don’t want to say or think that, however we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit that Arrieta’s hit a brick wall. His line last night: 4 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 0 BB, 5 K.
Obviously the one positive there is the zero walks; however there’s a bit more than meets the eye. The Philadelphia hitters were teeing off on his pitches so much that they didn’t need to take walks. Arrieta has seemingly lost the ability to induce late movement in the strike zone, and most of his pitches last night were coming in on a flat plain and ended up getting hit hard. Furthermore, most of his pitches were up in the zone, which tells me that somehow his release point has been altered. (In other words he’s releasing the ball too early.) One way or the other, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arrieta on the next flight to Norfolk this afternoon.
In fairness, Arrieta wasn’t helped by the defense behind him too much. J.J. Hardy misplayed a routine foul pop which was followed by a Mike Fontenot homer among other things. However even though the foul pop isn’t in anyway on Arrieta, as a starting pitcher you do have a responsibility to pick up your teammates in that situation. As down as the Phillies have been, they’re too good to be able to get away with making mistakes like that. The good news for the Orioles is that they battled back once again. These are still the “Fighting Showalters,” and they don’t give up (even when most fans are doing so). Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy both checked in with home runs, and Robert Andino pulled a two RBI-double tightly down the third base line. While the Orioles were still only two-for-five with RISP, they did put six runs on the board which will generally be good enough to win.
So what that means is that the starting pitching has to be better. Arrieta is certainly at a crossroads right now, and assuming that he goes to Norfolk (and at this point that hasn’t officially happened yet so we don’t know) he needs to work on his mechanics and fight to get back to this level. The weakness of the starting pitching is magnified even further when you look at how the Orioles’ bullpen has performed. Dana Eveland, Kevin Gregg, and Luis Ayala combined to throw five innings and they gave up one hit. Ideally you want the ‘pen to be used to preserve leads and in save situations, however ultimately good pitching is going to shut down good hitting.
Hunter will be recalled before today’s 4 PM game with Philadelphia (pending a corresponding roster move), and he’ll be opposed by the Phillies’ Vance Worley. The O’s should have their work cut out for them today given Worley’s 3.38 ERA on the season. Hunter is the big key in today’s game. If he can keep the ball down and out of the middle of the plate, the Orioles can get ahead of these Phillies. If not…you know the rest.
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