BALTIMORE — Before Tuesday’s 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter talked about the night’s starter, Jake Arrieta, and how all he wants is for the enigmatic right-hander to keep his team in games.
A moment later, Showalter altered his thinking slightly, saying that there are going to be times when Arrieta needs to pitch deep into the night and do more than just hang on until the Orioles can be in a position to win.
Excuse Showalter for shifting gears, the subject is Arrieta, after all — the supremely talented, supremely mystifying 27-year-old who can be so good and so not good in a matter of moments.
Tuesday night, before an announced 14,670, Arrieta was wild and overpowering; shaky and dominant while getting his first win of 2013. He struck out five of six batters at one point. He also threw 10 of 11 pitches for balls with two outs in the third, walking two before getting an inning-ending pop up.
The first pitch he threw Tuesday — a 94 mph fastball — was clobbered into the left field seats by Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings. It was Jennings’s fifth leadoff homer of his career.
It then took Arrieta 13 pitches to retire the next batter, Kelly Johnson, on a strikeout — one of seven Arrieta recorded in the game.
Arrieta (1-0) also walked five in just five-plus innings while throwing 112 pitches (only 63 for strikes). Yet he allowed no runs after Jennings’s homer, because he limited the Rays to just two more hits.
In all three of Arrieta’s starts this season he hasn’t gone more than five innings. He made it into the sixth Tuesday but walked Evan Longoria and was removed before recording an out in the inning.
Arrieta now has allowed 13 hits, 11 walks and nine runs (5.40 ERA) in 15 innings this year. And the Orioles have won all three games in which he has pitched. It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s what has happened.
The Orioles (7-6) were playing in just their fourth home game this season. But with the game seemingly in hand in the eighth, the Rays, who had scored three total runs in three straight losses at Boston, plated three runs in three batters against Orioles reliever Pedro Strop.
Kelly Johnson homered, Ben Zobrist walked and Longoria homered to suddenly make it a one-run game. But Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day combined on three outs in the eighth and Jim Johnson picked up his sixth save with a perfect ninth.
The Orioles have now won 97 consecutive regular season games when leading after seven innings, third longest for any big league club since 1961.