My plan was to write a little more about Jake Arrieta’s return to Camden Yards on Saturday night.
Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner whom the Orioles traded away in 2013, did his part to continue the narrative.
He lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks while striking out three Orioles. He wasn’t dominant, but he was effective, and earned the win.
An effective starting pitching performance. Let that sink in.
Because it’s just not something we’ve seen around here in weeks, months, years. OK, a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe the July Baltimore heat and the three-plus-hour Orioles’ beatdowns are melting my mind.
But it sure seems like a long time ago when the Orioles led the majors with a 22-10 record May 9, and they were buoyed in part, by a surprising rotation.
It seems like forever ago when lefty Wade Miley was among the AL ERA leaders in April.
On Saturday, Miley allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 10-3 pounding by the Chicago Cubs. He has allowed four earned runs or more in six of his last eight starts; he’s failed to pitch six full innings in any of those.
In the fourth and fifth innings Saturday, Miley picked up double plays and then struggled to get an out to finish either inning. He gave up two runs with two outs in the fourth and four runs with two outs in the fifth.
“In the fifth inning, got the two outs, got the double-play ball, and then it just snowballed. Kind of did the same thing in the fourth. I was able to manage it,” Miley said. “But, yeah, falling behind. Falling behind with two outs. Just not staying aggressive.”
His ERA has gone from 2.32 in his five April starts to 6.93 in the 14 starts since. Miley was asked the difference between having good numbers early and a bloated ERA now. To his credit, he didn’t pat himself on the back for his April starts.
“Were they that good, though? I was walking seven; I would call that more lucky. Everything in this game is result-oriented. Obviously, you smile and you’re happy because you walk away with a zero, (but) five innings, seven walks,” he said. “You take it, but at the same time, I think that might be where the problem is early on with me. I accepted that. And when those groundball double plays early in the year turned into doubles, the walks were scored. And that’s kind of where I’m at right now. I definitely feel better about my delivery, but you’ve got to keep working and fine-tune things.”
Miley’s season ERA sits at 5.40. And that’s still a better mark than starters Kevin Gausman (6.39), Ubaldo Jimenez (6.67) and Chris Tillman (7.90).
So, maybe it’s fitting that the Orioles’ starter struggled mightily on the night that Arrieta returned to the Camden Yards mound.
Arrieta, we all remember, struggled for several seasons with the Orioles before he was traded to Chicago, where he harnessed his talent.
And maybe that contrast shows just how far the Orioles need to go – as a rotation and a pitching organization – before they can experience what Arrieta did last year: A World Series title.
For his part, Arrieta talked post-game about how he enjoyed his experience in Baltimore, back then and on Saturday.
“Went to one of my favorite places to eat this morning. Just seeing some of the places I used to go all the time. We saw where we used to live. It’s a really cool feeling. It really is. Seeing the guys you used to play with. There’s still a lot of them over there. Playing here in Camden Yards, it’s one of the most beautiful parks in all of baseball, and it was just really cool. It really was,” Arrieta said.
“The fans were gracious. Some chirping in the bullpen before the game, which I expect. But, all in all, it was a great experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to play here for a few years. Now I’ve moved on to this phase of my career. But, you know, I wouldn’t trade the years I was here for anything. It was an enjoyable experience. I learned a lot, and I’m able to be the player I am today because of what I went through while I was in the organization.”
His old organization happens to be going through a lot right now – a freefall that has them at 42-48, a six-game-under-.500 nadir that equals their worst mark of the season.
The Orioles were looking for a fresh start in the second half.
Instead, they’ve given up 19 runs in two games.
All while getting a glimpse of what might have been.