Arrieta on staying positive, or else “things could continue to go this way”
The confounding performance of Jake Arrieta continued Sunday afternoon as he retired the first nine Rays he faced on Sunday afternoon and was on total cruise control, with just 36 pitches thrown, when he took the hill in the fourth.
But it all unraveled over the next five outs, as Arrieta continued what has been a mystifying six-start stretch, exiting after 4 2/3 innings and watching a once-dominant outing crumble and his team sputter to an 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay as a result.
It was a frustrating start to watch, a word Arrieta used frequently in a lengthy post-game interview that seemed almost cathartic for the 26-year-old, who seemed dazed but determined to set things right after allowing four runs on two hits and four walks.
“I’m still searching for it, still searching for that consistency every time I go out,” said Arrieta who has seen several outings derailed mid-start and has struggled to pitch out of the stretch the past month. “Right now, it’s not there, and I’ve got to put that behind me and continue to move forward, because if I don’t, it’s going to get to me and it could continue to snowball.”
Whether Arrieta, who is 0-5 with a 7.96 ERA in his last half-dozen starts, will get the chance to turn it around in Baltimore remains to be seen, although the Orioles starters are all struggling and there’s no clear-cut solution n Triple-A.
Asked if Arrieta would make his next scheduled start, manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal. “We just got through this game here and we’ve got off days,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what’s best for Jake and the Baltimore Orioles, but that’s the plan right now.”
Arrieta, whose backslide started after he threw eight scoreless innings against the Yankees on May 2, is well aware that he is on thin ice. The Orioles Opening Day starter, Arrieta has walked 28 batters in his last 31 2/3 innings, and Sunday’s command again proved to be his demise, leading to four three-ball counts in a two-run fifth inning that resulted in three walks and a two-run double.
He exited two outs into the fifth inning after allowing four runs on two hits and four walks in an 83-pitch outing in which he only threw 41 strikes. A fierce competitor who is one of the hardest workers on the team, Arrieta was visibly upset, not with the question that he could be optioned to the Minors, but that he has pitched poorly enough to even make that a possibility.
“I’m struggling; there’s no doubt about it,” said Arrieta, who sat alone hunched over his chair for a while before finally retreating to the showers. “I’ve had several games this year where it’s obvious that I can pitch consistently at this level, so I think the staff is probably frustrated because they see that type of stuff and then they see three outings where I’m out in the fifth inning. I feel the frustration and I know they do, as well.
I take it upon myself and I’m going to take it upon myself to make the adjustment and continue to pitch well for this team. As frustrating as it is to have seven losses, we’re a game out of first place, so that’s rewarding in the sense that, if I quickly turn this around, it’s going to be very good for our ballclub, so that’s the way I look at it.”
“Jake gets it,” Showalter said. “He knows what’s good enough and what’s not. And he has great work habits. It’s not from a lack of effort and want-to. He had some really good work on some of the things that have been challenging him before this start and it worked out real good before this start. And sometimes that’s the margin of error on this level.”
So, how will Arrieta approach this stretch, which he agreed is the worst stretch he’s had as a pro?
“Staying positive will definitely help, but sometimes it’s hard to when you have three outings in a row that are a struggle,” he said. “But I’m confident that over the course of a season, things are going to even out. And I’m going to continue to work and get on the right path for this team because I feel I’m too good not to.”
“Whatever I have to do, I’ve just got to continue to be positive and find the positive in everything, because if I get down on myself and continue this frustration, things could continue to go this way. But I’m really a firm believer that I’m not going to allow that to happen. I’ve said in the past, it’s been a struggle for the past month and that hurt and it’s frustrating, but I’m confident that I won’t let it continue, and whatever I’ve got to do, I’m going to do.”