Jake Arrieta gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks in four… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
Earlier this season, the Orioles' rotation continually pitched deep into games only to see a shaky bullpen and a woeful offense expunge any hope of winning consistently.
Through the first 10 contests of the second half, Orioles starters certainly are doing their part to contribute to what is arguably the worst season in modern franchise history.
In a 10-4 thumping by the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon that dropped the Orioles to 2-8 to start the second half, another young Orioles pitcher failed to give his club a chance. This time it was rookie Jake Arrieta (3-3), who lasted just four innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits and four walks.
"Honestly, it's pretty embarrassing to go out there and not be able to give your team a quality start," said Arrieta, whose ERA has climbed to 5.40 after nine big league starts. "I prepare myself too well to allow these kinds of things to happen. I've got to go out there and battle through six or seven innings, no matter if I have good stuff or not."
It was the second straight start in which Arrieta gave up at least five earned runs and failed to pitch six innings. In his previous three starts before this week, he pitched at least six innings and gave up a total of five earned runs.
On Sunday, he held the Twins scoreless until the third, when he hit a batter and gave up a single and a walk before allowing a two-out grand slam to Jason Kubel. He was pulled after throwing 87 pitches in four innings, putting his club in a 5-1 hole.
"The starters have to do a better job to set the tone, and today was a poor example of that," Arrieta said. "Got out of the first two [innings] unscathed, and they finally got to me. There's no excuses. You've got to go out there and execute the game plan. I was very prepared. I just did not execute -- at all. It's upsetting."
Arrieta isn't alone in his failure to pitch effectively or go deep into a game. Only four times in the first 10 games of the second half have Orioles starters lasted six innings or longer.
Take out Jeremy Guthrie's two quality starts -- in which he has allowed three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings -- and the rest of the Orioles' rotation has worked just 36 1/3 innings in eight games, allowing 41 earned runs (10.10 ERA) and 54 hits. The Orioles are 1-7 in those games.
"It comes down to pitching," said interim manager Juan Samuel, whose club is 16-28 since he took over. "The games that we had won, we pitched well. Our starters were going deep -- six, seven. We haven't seen that of late. That's the difference for me."
Consider this: In their past 10 games, the Orioles' starters have pitched 50 innings, and the bullpen has thrown 44. The constant use has taken its toll on a relief corps that was exemplary during the Orioles' feel-good four-game sweep at Texas to close the first half.
"You are bringing guys earlier in the game than what we were doing, and guys get comfortable coming out of the bullpen in certain situations and certain innings," Samuel said. "And what we've been doing is bringing guys in too early and in situations they were not pitching earlier in the season. That's one of the differences."
The bullpen gave up five runs in five innings Sunday, including back-to-back homers by Delmon Young and Jim Thome against Mark Hendrickson to lead off the sixth. The Twins homered four times and had 19 hits on a sweltering afternoon that included a rain delay of one hour, five minutes that chased the majority of the announced crowd of 17,408.
The Orioles' offense, however, sputtered for much of the day, managing just five hits and one run in six innings against Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey (8-6), who hadn't won in July and had been in jeopardy of losing his rotation spot.
Orioles leadoff hitter Corey Patterson doubled in the first and scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Markakis.
The Orioles didn't score again until the ninth, when they got three runs against Minnesota's Nick Blackburn, a former starter who had been demoted to the bullpen because of ineffectiveness.
The Orioles had two hits with runners in scoring position in the ninth -- equaling the two hits with runners in scoring position they managed in their other 34 innings against the Twins in the four-game series.
In their eight losses on the homestand, the Orioles were 8-for-69 (.116 average) with runners in scoring position. Overall, they were outscored 52-16 in those games.
"Sometimes we are pitching, sometimes we are not hitting. Sometimes we are hitting, and sometimes we aren't pitching," third baseman Miguel Tejada said. "I think in order for us to get hot, we all have to be on the same page."
It won't get any easier for these Orioles (31-67), who have the same record through 98 games as the 1988 group that started the season 0-21 and lost a franchise-worst 107 games.
Now they head to Toronto -- to face a Blue Jays team that has beaten them in all nine contests this season -- attempting to forget a disastrous homestand and a particularly awful Sunday afternoon game.
"It's going to bother me pretty bad just because of how well I prepare," Arrieta said. "It's unfortunate. I really won't accept outings like this. I'm going to make a change, no doubt about it."
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