I’m going to be careful how I say this because things could certainly dry up again quickly; Oriole bats have found their moxie again. The issu e last night was that the Orioles couldn’t hold the lead…a four-run lead to be exact. It’s kind of baffling in fact, given that in this case the Orioles had their opening day starter (Jake Arrieta) on the mound. Of course we know that the Arrieta of April and the Arrieta of now might well be two different things. Arrieta has been consistently up in the strike zone for quite some time. It’s to the point now where teams aren’t just sitting on a fastball, but they’re sitting on a high fastball with Arrieta. And they’re generally getting it at some point.
Xavier Avery opened the scoring in the first when he scampered home from third on Jim Thome’s RBI-single. The issue was that Arrieta allowed Anaheim to tie the game in the last of the inning. Mike Trout led off with a single, and he promptly stole second…or did he? Replays seemed pretty conclusive in that Matt Wieters’ throw beat Trout to the bag and Andino applied a sweeping tag. Just my two cents. Could be a case of the all-star Trout getting the benefit of the doubt over Wiet – nevermind. The Orioles seized the lead back in the next inning with back-to-back solo home runs by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Flaherty. Matt Wieters also provided an RBI-groundout, and the O’s led 4-1.
Again, the issue is that Arrieta’s command was nowhere near the plate. He allowed Anaheim to score two runs in the bottom of the inning, which was led off by an Alberto Callaspo walk. While he gave up two runs that inning, Arrieta briefly bounced back in the third with a 1-2-3 inning. The Oriole lead was pushed to 7-3 in the fourth with Matt Wieters’ three-run homer. However the fourth inning is ultimately what did Arrieta in. Callaspo walked again, and was advanced to second base on a passed ball. A barrage of base hits rained down on the Orioles, along with a pitching change. To be clear, Arrieta was lifted with no chance of being involved in the game’s decision. However Luis Ayala gave up the go-ahead run in that fourth inning as Anaheim took the lead for good, putting all of five runs across the plate.
The question now becomes what to do with Jake Arrieta. A few starts ago when things started to go south I said that fans shouldn’t get overly frustrated with Arrieta because pitchers have poor outings here and there. However at this point Arrieta appears to have lost his cookies. Him and Brian Matusz seem to be in the same boat in that they’ve lost the ability to induce late movement in their pitches. Not only were Arrieta’s pitches sailing into the middle of the plate, but they were staying there. There might be a school of though that perhaps you see if he settles down over the all-star break, but are the Orioles really prepared to run that risk? After the Callaspo walk in the fourth inning last night Buck Showalter went to the mound himself (as opposed to Rick Adair), and he didn’t look like he was there to make dinner plans with Arrieta for after the game. That in itself should tell fans that Arrieta’s on a very short leash. If Chris Tillman’s start on Wednesday is any indication, perhaps an elongated stint in triple-A might help Arrieta right himself. (And with Tillman please keep in mind that it was one start.)
So what do the Orioles do? My personal opinion is that they won’t do anything in the immediate aftermath of last night’s game. Arrieta’s turn in the rotation won’t come up before the break, so it isn’t something that needs attention right here and now. However I think there are two things in play:
- Is Zach Britton ready to come up?
- Could the Orioles trade for a starter?
I think that one of those two scenarios is entirely plausible. If they feel that Britton is ready, perhaps they might promote him and send Arrieta to Norfolk. Otherwise, Dan Duquette might well be working the trade wire for the next week during the all-star break. Zack Greinke of course is thought to be on the trading block, and the Orioles and Cubs have apparently also had talks about Matt Garza (the issue of course being that the Cubs wanted the Orioles to take Alfonso Soriano as well). I don’t think that trading for a pitcher would be a bad idea, however the issue is that whomever the Orioles are dealing with will know that the O’s need pitching; that might drive up the price a bit. The third option of course is that Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette give Arrieta one more start out of the all-star break. That could the an unpopular move among the fan base, however it might also be the most plausible.
The Orioles might well go into tonight’s game with a shortened bench. Chris Davis was scratched from last night’s game with a right trapezius strain. Furthermore, Mark Reynolds was hit in the hand last night. After the game he had swelling in his thumb area, however he said he thought he’d be ready to go tonight. Time will tell. The Orioles will have Miguel Gonzalez make a spot start out of the ‘pen tonight against Anaheim. I’m not big on relievers spot starting, however Gonzalez has been lights out in his appearances with his 2.31 ERA. Unfortunately the guy that he’s facing (C.J. Wilson) has a 2.33. Wilson dominated the O’s at the yard two weeks ago pitching seven innings and giving up a run. Tonight is a huge game for the O’s given that if they lose this one they’d have to win the final two in order to earn a split in the series.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala
Update: According to this tweet from Roch Kubatko of masnsports.com (also available in the Hub section of our website) the Orioles have wasted little time; Arrieta was optioned to triple-A Norfolk after the game. It’s unclear how Arrieta’s replaced in the rotation, but as I said above his turn won’t come up until after the break so it’s not something that they need to deal with today.