It’s hard to tell what to take away from Jake Arrieta’s start against the Pirates Wednesday night at Camden Yards. Did the schedule/injury gods have mercy on him, handing him the worst offense in the game to face in a surprise return to the rotation?
Was Arrieta’s performance the result of not spending the last 4 days dwelling on his last start and/or his next one? Did getting some run support, after receiving the 3rd-worst support in the American League, finally allow him to just relax and pitch? Or maybe, just maybe, he has finally figured it all out, and will now settle in as the ace starter that the Orioles have fully expected him to become.
We don’t know those answers, yet. What we do know is that the much maligned right hander, starting in place of Brian Matusz, dominated the Pirates over 7 innings. Arrieta (W, 3-8) scattered 7 hits, gave up just 1 walk and 1 run, and struck out a career-best 9 (including 5 of the first 8 batters he faced), en route to his first win since May 2.
Arrieta’s biggest challenge came in the 4th, with the Orioles already up 3-0. He got Andrew McCutchen to ground out to shortstop JJ Hardy to start the inning. Garrett Jones then singled on a ball Arrieta couldn’t handle. Casey McGehee singled to center, and Pedro Alvarez hit into a force out. Arrieta then walked Jose Tabata to load the bases with 2 outs. But Clint Barmes hit into a force out, and the Pirates were left empty handed.
In the Orioles’ 4th, Wilson Betemit, who’d already delivered an RBI double in the 2nd, hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Mark Reynolds, lifting the lead to 4-0. Betemit was back at it in the 6th, blasting his 8th home run of the year, a 2-out, solo shot to right, to make it 5-0.
In the 7th, Chris Davis, whose double off the left field wall in the first was just inches from a home run, did go deep. The 2-run shot landed on top of the grounds crew’s shed. At least, that’s where the ball landed. The head of Davis’ shattered bat ended up near Nick Johnson’s head in the Orioles dugout, for an extremely rare broken-bat long ball.
Troy Patton and Pedro Strop each threw scoreless innings, giving the Orioles the 7-1 win.
The Orioles will try to make it a sweep of the Pirates Thursday night at 7:05 at Camden Yards. Tommy Hunter (2-3, 5.40) goes for the birds, against former Oriole Erik Bedard (4-6, 3.59).
- Arrieta’s 9 strikeouts tied his career high. The win snaps his 6-game losing streak, which was also a career high.
- Wilson Betemit has been struggling lately, but he had a huge night: 3-3 with a home run, 3 RBIs, and 2 scored. JJ Hardy (3 hits, 2 runs), Mark Reynolds (2 hits, 2 runs), Chris Davis (2 hits, 1 home run, 3 RBIs), and Steve Pearce (2 hits, 1 RBI against his former team) also had big nights.
- Ryan Flaherty made a great diving catch in right field for the second night in a row. He also went 1-3.
- 7-1 wasn’t just the final score. It was also the scoring on a weird play in the 9th, as Steve Pearce fielded a pop fly to left by Alex Presley, then fired to Pedro Strop, covering 3rd base, for the force on Tabata.
- Let’s see…there was a broken bat home run, AND a 7-1 force play. What could be bad?