WASHINGTON - Orioles starter Jake Arrieta said that a key tonight after two rough outings in a row was being able to relax.
"Took some of the pressure off myself," he said. "Just from the get-go wanted to establish my fastball on both sides of the plate, mix in a breaking ball, especially to a pretty heavy left-handed hitting lineup. I think there was five in a row there at one point in the lineup, so there's a lot of guys there. You've got to make quality pitches down in the zone, especially with breaking balls. I was able to do that. Didn't try to do too much, really. Wanted to try to command multiple pitches in the zone, and when I got ahead, just finish guys off. Not let the pitch count run up and try to pitch as deep into the game as I could."
Arrieta kept mixing his pitches and never became predictable to the Nats' hitters.
"Right, and I think that's something that I do a little bit, or I've done a little bit in the past, especially guys like (Danny) Espinosa or (Rick) Ankiel," he said. "When I get in fastball counts, I want to try to mix up the looks and throw them something other than a fastball, something that I can command down in the zone - a changeup, if it's that pitch, or my breaking ball, which it was most of the time. So got a lot of swings and misses on that pitch and it's been quality for me pretty much all year. So just being able to get in counts where I'm able to throw it, bury it and put them in swing mode is really the big thing that helped me out."
Arrieta's biggest mistake was a sinker that Ian Desmond launched for a game-tying home run in the sixth.
"Well I was trying to do pretty much what I did with it, throw a sinking fastball down and in, and he just dropped the head," Arrieta said. "He's pretty good in, likes the ball in. But I didn't show him anything in all night, so he did a good job of dropping the head and getting the good part of bat on it. I like the pitch selection there. He's just a very good hitter and was able to put a good swing on it right there."
Asked about the starters wanting to keep the momentum going, Arrieta said, "Well, I think consistent quality starts is something that we all feed off. I'll take a lot of the blame for not pitching the way that I can on a consistent basis. Sometimes I'll feel a little pressure that I put on myself and it's just a matter of wanting to go out there and not let your teammates down. I know that they don't feel that way, but if I'm able to go out there and pitch like I can on a consistent basis, we're going to come out on top more times than not, so I feel like I'm in a good spot right now and just need to continue to go out there and attack these guys."
Arrieta loved the atmosphere tonight with 36,680 in attendance.
"It was an electric atmosphere, really," he said. "Great atmosphere to be a part of. Two great ballclubs, two young ballclubs, and both clubs in first place in their division. So it's going to be a battle the next two games here. I feel like with the type of pitching both of these clubs have, they're going to be, I'd say, one- or two-run ballgames. It's going to be a real exciting weekend.
"I think the way rivalries start is with winning ballclubs. Both of these clubs, we're both playing extremely well. We're able to win a lot of extra-inning games, especially on the road. And that's something that we weren't able to do the last couple of years. You couple that with our defense, or consistent pitching, especially in the bullpen, and our lineup. Our best players are playing like it right now, and that's why we're good."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson had one beef with Arrieta that he expressed to plate umpire Sam Holbrook.
"He made some good pitches," Johnson said. "We took a lot, at certain times, we took fastballs right there. He had a little slider and a decent curveball.
"I complained early on because he went to his mouth two or three times early on and I didn't see a real good wipe. I wasn't accusing him of throwing a spitter, but I said, 'I'd like to see a little better wipe.' But I didn't realize he was that fidgety. He's got all kinds of moves out there. But anyway, we'll get them tomorrow."