Before the beginning of this season much ado was made about the Orioles' young and revitalized pitching staff. Constructed from the likes of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergensen, and veteran presence Kevin Millwood. Many predicted at least an incremental improvement from their league worst ERA last year. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
The young rotation’s struggles came to a head last night after Tillman gave up a insurmountable eight runs in the third inning against division rival Tampa Bay in a 8-1 loss on Monday. The disastrous outing came off the heels of a similarly disappointing performance from Matusz giving up six earned runs in less than two innings en route to a 10-1 rout of the Orioles in their fourth straight loss since the All-Star Break. Consequently, Baltimore ranks above only the Diamondbacks in team ERA at 5.05.
At this point in the season, and maybe for the foreseeable future, the Orioles are for all intents in purposes married to the development of their young staff. Due to both the media generated hype and increased public expectations of success driven by the team the Orioles must give Matusz, Bergensen, and Tillman time to prove their mettle in the majors.
Although he has suffered through his own difficulties in his first major league call-up Jake Arrieta has thus far been the crown jewel of Baltimore's young staff. In his last outing prior to the All-Star Break Arrieta gave up only one run in over six innings and has tallied five quality starts in just seven major league appearances.
Arrieta, while being one of the organizations top prospects entering the season, did not receive the media attention afforded to Matusz and arrived in Baltimore to very little fanfare. Flying under the radar may have served Arrieta well, however he obviously still has room for improvement. His 4.62 K/9 ratio leaves much to be desired and Arrieta will need to lower his WHIP of 1.54 if wants to continue to be an impact pitcher in the Orioles rotation for years to come.
Arrieta’s aptitude for making the big pitch in his brief time in the majors has been his most valuable quality. Although that assertion may sound rather simplistic when needed Arrieta has been able to keep his fastball low and use his slider to keep hitters off balance when it counts. The Orioles young staff has continually landed itself in trouble by succumbing to 3-plus run innings. To this point Arrieta has been fairly successful in avoiding that pitfall.
Arrieta will be charged with putting an end to the Orioles' losing streak against a team that has had Baltimore’s number all year. Arrieta is opposed by Matt Garza (2-0, 1.13 ERA against Baltimore this season) who is having an excellent year in the shadow of ace David Price.