After throwing six strong innings yesterday against the division-leading Rays and earning his third win in his last four starts, Jake Arrieta could have given himself a nice big pat on the back.
He’d allowed just two runs on four hits to one of the hottest teams in baseball. He’d struck out seven Rays, earned his third straight quality start and picked up his fifth win, tying him for the Orioles’ team lead.
Following a day like that, I’d say Arrieta would have been well within his right to celebrate a little bit.
Instead, what’d he do? In his postgame interview with MASN’s Gary Thorne, Arrieta found the weak spots of his outing - his high pitch count through six innings and two walks allowed in his final frame of work - and made sure to single out those areas.
“When we’ve got a six-run lead like we did in the sixth inning, walking two guys is unacceptable,” Arrieta said. “I know that. I’ve just got to bear down there, focus mentally, and just pound the zone. I didn’t do that. Kind of took myself out of the game.”
That’s certainly nice to hear, especially coming from a guy in just his second major league season. But Arrieta wasn’t done.
“You can’t blame Buck (Showalter) or Goose (pitching coach Mark Connor) for taking me out of the game; I kind of made it an easy decision for them there,” he said. “In the future, moving forward, I’ve just got to pound the zone like I always do.”
Arrieta is certainly a confident guy, and that confidence on the mound is sometimes perceived as cockiness. But he’s also an intense competitor, and is constantly searching for ways to fine-tune his game.
Despite his recent success, pitch economy is an area that Arrieta needs to work on.
The 25-year-old has worked into the seventh inning in just one of his nine starts this season. His 5-1 record on the year is impressive, but the Orioles would love it if Arrieta could be more efficient on the mound, work deep into the count less often, and be more aggressive when he’s got a lead.
Arrieta knows he needs to improve in those areas, so instead of celebrating a win over a first-place team, he’s already looking forward to his next start.
That type of attitude is exactly what Showalter is looking for in his young starters.
The Orioles’ manager isn’t satisfied with six innings of solid baseball, and it’s good to see that Arrieta isn’t, either.