Jake Arrieta has wanted to be “the guy” for the Orioles. He loved getting the ball on Opening Day. He loves competing. And he was crestfallen when he was taken out of the rotation because of ineffectiveness earlier this month.
But he got a reprieve when Brian Matusz was pushed back because he bunted a ball off his face. Arrieta took Matusz’s start against Pittsburgh and dominated (seven innings, one hit, nine strikeouts). He also pitched well in his next outing, but got the loss when he gave up a grand slam to Ike Davis in the sixth after holding the New York Mets scoreless through five innings.
Another real test comes this afternoon, when Arrieta goes up against the Washington Nationals at home. For the Orioles, it’s a chance to win the three-game series against a good club and to capture the season series versus the Nats.
It also will kick off a tough homestand – the LA Angels and Cleveland Indians are coming in – in a winning way.
Personally for Arrieta, a good showing is key for several reasons. He has struggled this year at Camden Yards (2-5, 6.85 ERA in nine starts). And though he pitched well in his lone game against the Nats this season (a seven-inning, one-run no decision on May 18), he is 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in three games versus them in his career.
But more than that, Arrieta can’t afford a rough outing right now. Chris Tillman and Zach Britton are a phone call away at Triple-A Nofolk. And he could always get pushed back to the bullpen again if he’s not producing.
The feeling within the organization is that Arrieta has responded well since he was taken out of the rotation. That he is thinking less and letting his excellent arsenal take over. But he needs to show consistency, and, after a pedestrian line in his last start, it would do his confidence – and the confidence the club has in him – a world of good if he shows he is still on the right track.
The Nats’ offense has scored more than four runs just once in the past eight games.
So this could be a great opportunity for him – to show he is over a mental hurdle, with designs again on being “the guy.”