First thing’s first; Jake Arrieta had some tough moments in last night’s game, as well as some bright ones. He started the game off by giving up a home run to Dan Jennings on the first pitch of the game – no, you didn’t misread that. However while most Orioles fans probably were thinking it would be a long night, that ended up being the only run that Arrieta would give up in the entire game. Arrieta’s line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 7 K. The two things that will stand out to most people are that he only pitched five innings (112 pitches), and the five walks.
At various points Arrieta had some issues locating the strike zone, however at others he was right in there. In fairness to Arrieta, Kelly Johnson had a 12-pitch at-bat immediately following the lead off homer, which helped to drive up the pitch count. I suspect he might have been able to put in another inning if not for that. Part of Arrieta’s issue is that he at times seems to be fighting himself out on the mound, which leads one to question if he’s trusting in his stuff. However the fact is that the guy turned in a quality start for the Baltimore Orioles, and he left them in a position to win the game. That’s all you can ask of your starter. Furthermore he only gave up the one run, so when he allowed runners on base he minimized the damage very well.
The Orioles stuck back immediately following the lead off homer as Nate McLouth drew a lead off walk from Tampa starter Robert Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona), stole second, and was doubled home by Manny Machado. In the second inning the Birds took the lead for good on Matt Wieters’ solo home run, and tacked another run on in the third when Nick Markakis singled Nate McLouth home. The score stood at 3-1 until the sixth when the Orioles had a bases loaded and nobody out situation; J.J. Hardy hit a soft tapper towards Evan Longoria at third, and Longoria threw wide of the plate to try to nab Manny Machado (everyone was safe). Ryan Flaherty would later plate Adam Jones to give the Birds a 5-1 lead.
This game wasn’t without some late dramatics however. As much as we love to say that the Orioles play until the last out, so do the Tampa Rays. They obviously aren’t having much success with it this year having started 4-9, however the fact is that they don’t give up in games. With Pedro Strop having come on in relief in the seventh, Kelly Johnson opened up the eighth inning with a home run to cut the lead to 5-2. Strop followed that up by walking Ben Zobrist, and longtime Oriole-killer Evan Longoria’s homer suddenly cut the lead to 5-4. However Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day combined to match up to the Tampa hitters in order to finish the inning.
Jim Johnson was flawless in the ninth inning, and the Orioles now find themselves over .500 again. After the game Buck Showalter said that Strop was forced to throw balls that caught part of the plate due to getting into some less-than-desirable counts, which aided in the two homers in the eighth. Strop was visibly angry with himself when he came out of the game, as the two home run pitches were supposed to be sinkers but they stayed right in the middle of the plate. Johnson and Longoria are both good hitters, and they took advantage.
The series with Tampa continues tonight as Chris Tillman heads to the mound for his third start this season. Tillman is yet to win or lose a game (similar to Arrieta last night), and he looked much better in his last start in Boston when he only gave up two runs over five plus innings. He’ll be facing a Tampa offense that’s been fairly anemic thus far in 2013. Tillman will be opposed by Tampa’s Matt Moore, who’s yet to allow a run in two starts thus far in 2013.
The Orioles apparently are one of several teams interested in Texas’ Julio Borbon, an outfielder that will be placed on waivers if he isn’t traded by 2 PM eastern time today. Borbon hit .304 with a .349 OBP at triple-A last year. Overall, he has a .283 average at the big league level with over 700 at-bats. If the Orioles manage to land Borbon (either via trade or through waivers), it’s unclear what they would do with him.