“Command was a challenge for him,” Showalter said.
That pretty much sums it up.
Arrieta allowed only one run and three hits in five-plus innings, but he walked five and threw 112 pitches in a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Very similar to his first two outings,” Showalter said. “Someone reminded me today, we’ve won all three games he’s started in. But there’s better there.”
Arrieta has gone five innings in all three starts, but it’s too early to detect a pattern, especially when considering that he came out of his last start following a 43-minute rain delay.
“He’s capable of pitching seven, eight, nine innings and we hope it happens,” Showalter said. “It’s pretty obvious in a three-outing sampling that has been the pattern, but doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again next time.
“He goes through periods where it’s not as much of a challenge for him as it is right now. He’s got to work through it. Stuff that he’s working on it all the time. It’s about repeating the delivery and getting the ball where he needs to get it. He had a lot of counts, some close pitches that didn’t go his way. But when you’re not commanding the strike zone, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt there.”
Showalter said it isn’t one specific thing that’s holding back Arrieta.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Showalter said. “But you know, he is the winning pitcher tonight in a major league game against an American League East team. I’m proud of him for battling through. He had some chances to give in and he didn’t. He gave us a chance to win tonight. We got some big outs from some guys out of the bullpen.
“The thing I’m going to look back on, the defensive side of the ball was probably one of the difference-makers for us.”
Pedro Strop retired both batters he faced in the seventh, but Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria homered off him in the eighth.
“He got in some counts that you had to come in part of the plate and they made him pay for it,” Showalter said. “Some good hitters.”
Strop said he missed on both pitches.
“That was pretty much it,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good, locating my sinker. Good location with everything. But those two pitches, they just stayed right in the middle.
“I feel kind of sad a little bit because I put my team in a situation where it was a close situation. But I was happy at the same time to see my teammates getting the job done. We’ve been pretty good since last year in one-run games and I know we could get the job done. That made me feel a lot better.”
Matt Wieters must feel better after hitting his first home run, and getting his first extra-base hit, since opening day.
“I didn’t even know that, and quite frankly, it’s not a concern of mine,” Showalter said. “He catches a great game. Put down some great fingers tonight. Made a lot of good decisions for us that helped us win a baseball game. What he does offensively for us is just a plus.
“I think he’s got a good track record and we’ve got a good feel for what he’s going to be for us when all is said and done.”