What may turn out to be the final start Jake Arrieta ever makes in an Orioles uniform was a fitting one for his career: he didn't exactly look AWFUL at any time, and you try to make excuses, tell yourself it wasn't so bad. A bit of the damage was done by Miguel Cabrera hitting a two-run homer, and he's victimized better pitchers than Jake. He only issued one walk, which was intentional. There were dinks and dunks and bloops. He was chased early: ten hits, five runs (all earned) in a short 4.2-inning outing. That was more than enough for Max Scherzer as the Tigers cruised to a 5-1 victory Monday over the Orioles.
Arrieta is long past the point where you can cling to the signs of hope. Results are what matter now, and giving up ten hits is too many. It doesn't matter if they're ten bunt singles. They weren't exactly ten line drive lasers, but they were ten solid hits. Even as he struck out Cabrera in the fifth inning, Arrieta threw a wild pitch that allowed two runners to advance, "forcing" the intentional walk to Prince Fielder, leading to one or two runs scoring as the runners moved up.
That's Jake for you. He failed the Brian Matusz Test: entering the game with an already-high 6.63 ERA, he could not manage to lower that mark. When all was said and done, he left with a 7.23 ERA, with two men on base that Troy Patton stranded. There is a time where you're just not a major league starting pitcher because that's what your results say. Arrieta is there. Maybe someone will reclaim him, or attempt to, but I don't see things suddenly getting better in Baltimore.
Arrieta could find himself on the way back to Norfolk quickly, with Zach Britton needing to be added to the roster to start Tuesday's game. He will probably not be seen again except in the direst of straits.
As for the Orioles hitters, it went about the way you'd expect against a pitcher like Scherzer. He added ten strikeouts to his season total as he pitched six innings. The O's had their chances against him: he gave up seven hits and two walks in that time, but the only run that scored was a second-inning home run by Chris Davis, his MLB-leading 24th of the season.
Davis' home run came the inning right after Cabrera hit one. There was an appropriate style to it: Cabrera, perhaps chasing another Triple Crown, tried to rein in Davis with his 19th home run. Davis said, no, that will not be happening. It was a solo shot to open the inning and it was the Orioles offense on the night.
They got men on in the fourth inning, with Davis and Matt Wieters reaching base with consecutive singles with one out. They were stranded. They got men on in the fifth inning, with Ryan Flaherty leading off with a walk. Nate McLouth singled, putting two men on with none out. Scherzer did what Scherzer does: racked up strikeouts back-to-back of Manny Machado and Nick Markakis. Suddenly, the rally looked much less threatening with two outs.
Adam Jones hit a sharp grounder that Tigers second baseman Omar Infante could not corral in time for an out, bringing up Davis with the bases loaded. He worked the count, with Scherzer pounding a target far outside (and looking indignant every time he hit the glove and didn't get a called strike). Davis laid off until there was a full count, but then he swung and missed and that was that.
The O's would not get a runner to second base for the rest of the game, with Drew Smyly sending down the O's in order in each of the last three innings, earning the rare three-inning save. It was his second save of the season. Scherzer got the win, improving his record to 10-0 - which is impressive regardless of your feelings about pitcher W-L records. Arrieta took the well-deserved loss, lowering his record to 1-2.
Machado's hitting streak came to an end in the game as he took an 0-4 with two strikeouts. Patton threw 2.1 scoreless innings in relief and Pedro Strop struck out two batters in one low-leverage inning of work. There is little comfort to be found about anything after a loss like this.
You probably weren't expecting the Orioles to steal a win with Arrieta matching up against Scherzer, just like you don't expect Britton vs. Verlander to be a good matchup for the Orioles tomorrow either. That doesn't make the loss any less frustrating. They had their chances and did not take them. No matter who's starting, you won't win a lot of games when your offense scores only one run. That's baseball.
Tomorrow against Justin Verlander will be some more baseball. Britton will be facing the challenge of this tough Detroit lineup, probably also facing the same one-start-no-matter-what arrangement as Arrieta did tonight. Here's hoping it goes better for Britton. The game will start at the weird Detroit time of 7:08.