Put the brooms away - L.A. Dodgers 7, Orioles 4
Written by Mike Laws
With four in the books on Sunday, the stars seemed pretty well aligned for an Oriole sweep. Not only had the Birds jumped all over Stephen Fife, smacking the Dodger spot-starter around in a three-run first where he was forced to throw a whopping thirty-six pitches, but Jake Arrieta appeared to have the good stuff going. The mercurial righty fanned the first two batters of the ballgame, retiring the side in order, then one-upped that impressive frame with a nine-pitch second. He even largely overcame the obligatory no-control/meltdown-type inning, in the third, when the Dodgers had to settle for a run courtesy of a sac-fly despite Arrieta’s yielding three walks (!) and a single. And after an Adam Jones solo shot in the bottom half restored the margin to three, the Oriole right-hander looked like he was settling right back down, sandwiching a groundout between a pair of swinging K’s for his third one-two-three half-inning out of four trips to the hill.
But oh, how appearances can deceive …
Which brings us, sadly, to the bullet points.
- I still can’t decide if it’d be worse, for O’s fans, if Arrieta was just downright awful. Because this present incarnation — constantly stoking hopes that here’s an outing where he’ll put it all together; constantly frustrating — is pretty torturous to endure. Certainly the “stuff,” as they say, is all there; when Arrieta’s hitting his spots, his best three pitches (a 94-96 mph fastball that darts and runs, a sharp slider thrown at a not-even-fair 90-91, a nasty 12-to-6 curve spun in the low eighties) seem just about unhittable. Putting this another way would be to state the painfully obvious: When he’s not walking people left and right, No. 34’s pretty dang effective. But the wrinkle, as far as I can tell, is that Arrieta’s deadliest weapon is also his Achilles’ heel; that is, his ball moves so much even he can’t tell where it’s going. A patient team will punish that. And unfortunately, the AL East is chockablock with teams that worship at the altar of Plate Discipline. (Though there is hope, I think: Clearly, part of the problem is mechanical. How often today did we see Arrieta “drag” a fastball inside, on a left-handed hitter? Jim Palmer’s “Ferris wheel, not merry-go-round” maxim comes to mind.)
- Whatever the whys and wherefores of this infuriating inconsistency, the Dodger third was but a prelude to a truly nightmarish Los Angeles fifth. In that frame, Arrieta (a) walked the leadoff man on four pitches; (b) hit the next batter with a pitch; (c) also walked Carl Crawford on four pitches; and (d) caved, after going up in the count 0-2 against Mark Ellis, surrendering a two-run single. Sadly, with the Birds now clinging to a one-run lead, and still with no one out, T.J. McFarland found himself thrust into something of a predicament (to say the least), and didn’t fare much better. Continuing with the alphabet thingy, McFarland (e) went up 0-2 against his first batsman, Adrian Gonzalez, before the big first baseman doubled down the line to left, scoring one; and (f) gave up yet another run-scoring hit, this time a single to the seriously slumping Matt Kemp. That McFarland was then able to bear down, fanning Andre Ethier and inducing an infield pop-up and eventually, with the bases loaded again, grounding Ramon Hernandez out to second, was something of a minor miracle; the Dodgers took the field up only a run, after all was said and done …
- … But if you were looking for a good bounce-back half-inning, the bottom of the fifth sure wasn’t it. Despite earning a leadoff walk and scratching out three base hits, the Birds managed to go quietly against a by-now-at-the-end-of-his-tether Fife, with Manny Machado (0-for-5, after a magnificent double header yesterday) bouncing into a double play, and Chris Davis (3-for-4) picking this as his only at-bat not to do something positive, flailing at the third Fife offering he saw, a ball in the dirt, to strand Jones and Nick Markakis on the basepaths …
- … After which they wouldn’t really ever threaten again, mustering only a pair of singles (Nolan Reimold, Ryan Flaherty), a Davis double and a free pass, over the final four innings. Which made the extra runs the Dodgers were able to tack on — an RBI single for the first run actually charged to McFarland, in the seventh; another sacrifice fly, this time against Troy Patton, in the ninth — more or less academic. Got the Blue Jays tomorrow, e’erbody. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.
IT’D BE REMISS OF ME NOT TO INCLUDE: Credit where credit’s due: The oft-maligned Pedro Strop worked a pleasantly uneventful inning and a third. So that’s good.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board