Sometimes you go to a baseball game and a philosophy class breaks out. Today was one of those days, because there is little to illustrate the duality of man better than a pitching performance by Jake Arrieta.
Jake was perfect through six hitters, notching a couple of strikeouts in the first inning and not looking like he was challenged at all. That even included some none-too-shabby Dodgers hitters like Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. He was cruising, and the Orioles looked to have Stephen Fife completely figured out with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. That's what it looked like, and then it all went wrong.
The trouble began for Jake in the way that it always does, with something that's not his fault. Specifically, there was a walk to A.J. Ellis that was not a walk. Whatever plate umpire Tim Welke was watching during that plate appearance, it wasn't the game. But then Jake gave up a single to Skip Schumaker and went on to walk Crawford. That led to a sacrifice fly by Mark Ellis to put the Dodgers on the board. Jake recovered with a strikeout of Matt Kemp, and followed that inning with two strikeouts in the fourth inning.
Good Jake, bad Jake, good Jake again. How can he be both of these things? How, indeed? Could Carl Jung make sense of Arrieta? Perhaps this is just human nature in action. In any case, Bad Jake appeared yet again in the fifth inning as he loaded the bases with this sequence: walk, hit by pitch, walk. Then he gave up a two run single to Mark Ellis and was banished from the game. If I had my druthers, he would be banished to Norfolk before I finish writing this recap, the kind of demoted in thirty minutes or less or your pizza's free exile that was meted out a couple of times last season, most notably to Brian Matusz.
Jake's line: 4 IP (plus four batters), 2 H, 5 ER, 5 BB (!), 6 K. He threw 91 pitches, 50 for strikes. How do you walk five guys in four-plus innings - with three of those innings being perfect innings? How, Jake? How?
It was 4-3 in favor the Orioles when Jake left the game. The tying and go-ahead runs were scored after T.J. McFarland entered, but those runs were deservedly charged to Jake. McFarland managed the best he could with the situation. He would go 2.2 innings, doing the long man yeoman's work, though he did give up four hits and two walks. This appearance probably takes T.J. out of the running for Wednesday's start, meaning there needs to be some sort of roster move for that.
On the other side of the plate, the O's hitters failed to score after an Adam Jones solo homer in the 3rd inning. This, again, despite being up against the immortal Fife, who, to my eyes, was missing nearly every spot. Fife himself only lasted 4.2 IP giving up seven hits and four earned runs while somehow striking out five. What was the difference between Fife and Arrieta? That's an easy one: walks. Fife only walked one Oriole.
Of the seven Dodgers runs, four were men who reached base without actually hitting a baseball. Three came from walks and one from a hit-by-pitch. Give major league teams free runners and they will hurt you, even teams that had not been scoring many runs, as was the case with the Dodgers.
One bright spot on the O's today was Chris Davis, who went 3-4 with a double. Unfortunately, he never did score any runs, largely because the four hitters behind him in the order reached base a combined three times for the game. That's three men on base out of 16 plate appearances by the 6-9 hitters. Nolan Reimold added one more hit to the tally for O's designated hitters. That puts O's DHs at 8-62 on the season (a .129 average), and probably means they are still being out-hit by pitchers.
Jones was the other bright spot, on base three times between a home run, a single and a hit by pitch. In fact, a lot of the O's problems can be seen in this statistic from the Orioles post-game notes: Jones and Davis are batting a combined .380 with a .711 slugging percentage while every other Orioles hitter combined is batting .228 with a .366 slugging percentage. There are black holes all across the lineup and the success of Jones and Davis is all the more remarkable when you consider that right now there's absolutely no reason to pitch to either of them, especially for right-handed pitchers, because they could just walk both Jones and Davis and get lefty-batting Matt Wieters to ground into yet another double play.
Nick Markakis added a pair of hits today to raise his season slash line to .311/.370/.419. If you combine his numbers in with Jones and Davis and then consider the rest of the team, the resulting number is likely quite depressing.
If you want something else to cheer you, Pedro Strop proved that he could still pitch, closing the door on the Dodgers in the 7th inning, when they were threatening, by striking out Ramon Hernandez looking, and had a clean 8th inning. He can pitch without walking batters! The stakes were low. The game was not tied, the Orioles did not maintain a slim lead. But man, when he's good, he's good. Sounds a lot like today's starting pitcher.
Next up for the Orioles is a series in Baltimore against Toronto. Chris Tillman will start the opener on Monday night for the O's. He'll be opposed by J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays. Can Tillman manage to go more than five innings for once? The O's could sure use that now.