There's a pretty good chance that this particular pitch got hit hard somewhere. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Jake Arrieta desperately needed a good outing tonight. Coming off a string of mediocre-to-terrible outings, with speculation swirling that his spot in the rotation and on the roster could be in jeopardy, Arrieta needed to silence the critics and show that he still knows how to pitch.
Instead, Jake Arrieta tonight imploded spectacularly. If there's such a thing as failing with flying colors, that's what he did. And the next time he takes the mound, it might be in a Norfolk Tides uniform.
Arrieta fell behind quickly in the first inning, though it wasn't like he was knocked around. In a sentence you'll rarely hear, Jim Thome reached on an infield single (Arrieta couldn't field Thome's squibber between the mound and first base). That was sandwiched between a pair of ground-ball singles that found holes, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. OK, some bad luck that inning.
In the second, though, Arrieta had no excuse for his horrendousness. He gave up a first-pitch double to former Oriole Ty Wigginton, though Wigginton promptly made a baserunning blunder by trying to get to third on a grounder to short, and was thrown out. That's the Wiggy we remember! It didn't end up mattering, though; number nine hitter (and another former Oriole farmhand) Mike Fontenot swatted his first homerun of the year, a two-run shot, to make it 3-0.
Arrieta fielded a comebacker for the second out, and he had a chance to end the inning without too much damage. But the Phillies proceeded to put six consecutive batters on base. The O's defense didn't help matters. Juan Pierre lashed a gapper to left-center, and legged it out for a triple when Adam Jones couldn't cut the ball off. Arrieta nearly plunked Hunter Pence with a pitch and then actually did plunk him on the very next offering. Then Jim Thome, fresh off the DL, smashed a ground-rule double to right that Ryan Flaherty couldn't quite track down.
It only got worse from there. Shane Victorino's hard smash to first base ate up Mark Reynolds and rolled down the line, plating two more runners to make it a 6-0 game. The generous official scorer credited Victorino with a double instead of saddling Reynolds with yet another error. As long man Dana Eveland got ready in a hurry in the bullpen, Arrieta allowed an RBI single to Carlos Ruiz before mercifully striking out Wigginton, the 10th batter of the inning, to end it.
The Phils plated six runs in the inning, the O's defense made two or three misplays, and Arrieta was throwing batting practice. Through two innings, he'd given up EIGHT HITS. The massive Camden Yards crowd of 40,459 was taken out of the game early (well, except for the fact that about half of them were Phillies fans. Speaking of which, if you're going to the game Saturday or Sunday, DO NOT go to Pickles pre-game, unless you enjoy being packed into a fenced area like a sardine and getting jostled and elbowed by already-drunk Phils fans).
Somehow, Arrieta struck out the side in the third inning. What? How? Where was that kind of performance the rest of the night? It's like he flipped a switch and suddenly became awesome for one inning, out of nowhere. It convinced Buck Showalter to stick with him for another frame, but he got burned when Victorino parked a two-run homer.
Arrieta didn't return for the fifth. In four innings, he was torched for nine runs and 11 hits. He's just unwatchable right now. Remember when Arrieta pitched great on Opening Day, and had those great outings at Yankee Stadium and Nationals Park? Unfortunately, those were the exceptions rather than the rule, and now Arrieta and his 6.32 ERA could be headed to the minors.
In happier news, the Orioles' bullpen did a great job, led by Eveland's three scoreless innings in long relief. But the Birds' early seven-run deficit proved too much to overcome, despite a valiant effort by the offense to chip away against Phillies starter Joe Blanton. The O's plated three runs in the second on a Chris Davis RBI single and Robert Andino two-run double, then added another in the fourth on a Davis solo blast to center field. J.J. Hardy's two-run shot off reliever Michael Schwimer (long-lost brother of David) cut the Philly lead to 9-6 in the seventh.
The O's couldn't complete the comeback, though. Antonio Bastardo, whose name must always be written in capital letters with an exclamation point as you shake your fist at the sky (BASTARDO!), struck out the side in the eighth, setting up closer Jonathan Papelbon to make his first appearance at Camden Yards since blowing Game 162 for the Red Sox last season. The O's Jumbotron operators squandered a great opportunity to show a clip from that game, which could've been a nice little psych-out for Papelbon. Instead, he worked an uneventful ninth (in his rematch with Andino, he induced a flyout to center) to finish it off. The Phillies snapped their six-game losing streak at the expense of the Orioles and the increasingly hopeless Arrieta.