ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Orioles, searching for five able arms to keep their season afloat, had already sent two members of their Opening Day starting rotation down to the minors.
Early Friday morning, the Orioles sent down a third. Right-hander Jake Arrieta was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 9-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
"I’ve said it many times. It ain’t good enough," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We’ve got to get better and I think our guys understand that carrying around 6.00 ERAs in the American League just don’t cut it."
The Orioles almost sent down Arrieta in early June but he was jettisoned to the bullpen instead, and when holes in Baltimore’s rotation opened, he slid back into the starting role days later.
Arrieta was the team’s Opening Day starter, the pitcher Showalter entrusted to be the anchor of the club’s young staff. The organization has tried to do everything feasible to make sure Arrieta thrives, knowing his success is critical to the Orioles.
But now, after another head-shaking start from Arrieta on Thursday night in Anaheim – in which he blew two sizable leads, he will join struggling starters Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter in Norfolk.
Speaking to reporters following the game -- just moments before the team announced he was being sent down to Norfolk -- Arrieta was despondent, uncertain whether he would get another start.
"Tonight, I just didn’t go a good job," Arrieta said. "Tonight was poor execution, poor mechanics. Everything was pretty poor tonight and it was frustrating. When we had the lead like we did, such a big lead, and I didn’t find a way to get a win for our guys."
The Orioles’ 9-7 loss to the Angels, their fifth in six games against them this season, was one of the team’s best offensive outputs over the past three weeks. Baltimore’s seven runs – all scored in the first four innings on Thursday – was more than the Orioles scored in 17 of their last 18 games.
No, you couldn’t place the blame on the Orioles offense on this night. The Orioles had scored two or fewer runs in 11 of his 17 starts coming in. But on Thursday, they hit three homers in a game for the first time since June 12 against the Pirates, pouncing on Angels starter Garrett Richards for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.
And when Orioles catcher Matt Wieters sent a 1-1 changeup sailing into the right-field stands for a three-run homer in the fourth to give the Orioles a 7-3 lead, they had to feel good about their fortunes as well as their offensive resurgence.
But Arrieta wouldn’t survive a five-run Angels fourth. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings for his second straight start, marking the third time this season Arrieta didn’t last four innings.
The Angels peppered the ball around the outfield that inning, totaling five hits and a walk against Arrieta and reliever Luis Ayala, who allowed a two-out single to Kendrys Morales to give Los Angeles an 8-7 lead.
The Orioles (44-38) gave Arrieta a 4-1 lead in the second – partly thanks to back-to-back homers by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Flaherty -- but the Angels scored two runs in the bottom half of that inning, taking advantage of back-to-back leadoff walks. Arrieta walked the leadoff batter in both the second and fourth innings.
It is the latest in a disturbing slide among the Orioles starting pitchers, who have gone four or more innings in just four of the last seven games.
The solution had been to send those struggling, like Hunter and Matusz, down for seasoning and patchwork the rotation with the likes of Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland and Miguel Gonzalez.
Arrieta (3-9, 6.13 ERA) now owns a 13.50 ERA in his last two starts, but his struggles run back more than two months. Going back to his best outing of the year, when he threw eight shutout innings in Yankee Stadium on May 2, Arrieta has a 6.75 ERA in 13 starts since.
"There’s a tempo there," Showalter said. "Jake had great tempo earlier in the year. It was something we really stressed to him and it seems like he’s grinding a lot maybe trying to overanalyze it a little instead of just throwing a baseball. Not all of his starts have been bad here recentlty. But tonight we obviously needed a little better outing to compete tonight."
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