Just Enough - Jake Arrieta Beats Rays 5-4
Written by Mike Laws
Nate McLouth - LF
Manny Machado - 3B
Nick Markakis - RF
Adam Jones - CF
Chris Davis - 1B
Matt Wieters - C
J.J. Hardy - SS
Ryan Flaherty - 2B
Nolan Reimold - DH
Jake Arrieta - RHP (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Desmond Jennings - CF
Kelly Johnson - DH
Ben Zobrist - 2B
Evan Longoria - 3B
Matt Joyce - LF
Yunel Escobar - SS
James Loney - 1B
Jose Lobaton - C
Sam Fuld - RF
Roberto Hernandez - RHP (0-2, 6.08 ERA)
O’s pad lead, need every last bit in opener against Rays
At a certain point, the Orioles’ half of the sixth looked like it was setting up to be another of those frames that’ll drive you nuts, with this team: After Nick Markakis walked, Adam Jones doubled down the left field line and the Rays opted to issue the intentional pass to Chris Davis — of whom Joe Maddon’s side still appears legitimately afraid, following the downright herculean performance he delivered in the season-opening series in Tampa — Matt Wieters struck out and J.J. Hardy fell into a quick hole at 0-2 before bouncing limply to third baseman Evan Longoria, who’d been drawn in, positioned perfectly (ostensibly, anyway) to come home to cut down the lead runner … except Longoria misfired, rushing his throw and pulling catcher Jose Lobaton off the plate. What could’ve been another big out, or even a rally-crushing double play, instead went down as an E-5, keeping Birds at every bag and the inning alive for a Ryan Flaherty run-scoring groundout. It wasn’t the big inning the bases-loaded, nobody-down situation might’ve initially portended, but the Orioles had pushed two insurance runs across to make it 5-1.
As it turned out, they’d need every bit of that lead …
… but hang on. First, and happily, on to the bullet points!
- I won’t name names or weigh in myself on the matter, but certain frequent posters on the Hangout message boards have suggested that tonight might’ve been a final trial to decide Jake Arrieta’s future, if there is to be one, starting ballgames for the Baltimore Orioles. And given his performance against the Rays, I think it’s fair to say that … drumroll, please … the jury is still out. Turning in yet another in what’s becoming quite the series of seriously perplexing outings, Arrieta was what you might term effectively wild; he surrendered just the one run on three hits, ringing up seven Rays on a combination of running fastballs and seriously sharp sliders — but also walked five batsmen over his five-plus innings of work, and had thrown, by the time of his departure, 112 pitches. Yikes. Of those batters against whom he didn’t go deep in the count — and there weren’t many — one was Desmond Jennings, who needed to see only one Arrieta offering (the very first of the ballgame) to take him deep for the only run he’d yield. And while a stat line like Arrieta’s might suggest a pitcher who’s being too fine, afraid to hit bats, it looked to this reporter more like he was just missing his spots (how many times tonight did he miss Wieters’s target by about a foot, coming way in on the inside of the plate when the big man’s glove was set up way wide?). In other words, the stuff is sharp — witness Arrieta’s nasty hook to strike out Yunel Escobar in the second — but the control has been anything but.
- Even so, you had to hand it to Arrieta for keeping the team in the ballgame — indeed, putting himself in a position to get the win (though for a second there it looked dicey, with bullpen arms getting loose before the starter had completed five full). The O’s had come through for runs in each of Rays starter Roberto Hernandez’s (/Fausto Carmona’s) first three innings of work, cashing in on Nate McLouth’s walk and steal and subsequent driving-in courtesy of a Manny Machado double in the first, a Wieters homer (from the left side, too!) in the second, and a McLouth-double/Markakis-RBI-single sequence in the third. And following the mini-eruption in the sixth, it looked like the Birds were in cruise control …
- But we should know, after that first series in Tampa, that this team — having taken a page out of the playbook of certain of its big-name divisional peers — won’t go down without a fight. Of course, it doesn’t help that Pedro Strop had one of those nights. Greeting Strop in the eighth, Tampa DH Kelly Johnson capped a protracted at-bat with a wallop to left — an act repeated, following a free pass to Oriole-masher Ben Zobrist, by Oriole-masher Longoria …
- … Fortunately, however, Strop was the aberration out of the Oriole bullpen, in this one. His meltdown followed a perfect inning and a third from Troy Patton, and was followed itself by Brian Matusz, who came on to face only one hitter (whom he retired), and Darren O’Day, who worked around an infield single and rang up pinch-hitter Ryan Roberts in a nerve-jangling at-bat to end the eighth. As for the rest, it went perfectly according to script, with Jim Johnson coming on and — to quote Joe Angel — doing what he does: recording three consecutive groundball outs to put a bow on this one.
MANNY BEING MANNY: Think he’s getting comfortable over at the hot corner? When it came time for another turn in the spotlight, with one down in the top of the ninth, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a replay of Machado’s highlight-reel play from game two of the Twins series earlier this month: Much as with that excellent (non-)glovework, Machado charged onto the infield grass at Camden Yards to barehand a topper, slinging an off-balance sidearm throw perfectly on the money for a bang-bang play at first. Replays showed Machado actually snagging the little bouncer with his throwing fingers already flanged out in near-split-finger fashion. Talk about catch-and-throw. Hard to remember this was once a prospect at short.
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