Even before he threw his first pitch Sunday, Jake Arrieta, who has been mostly unaffected by the Orioles' offensive and defensive woes during his brief time with the club, was presented with another piece of good fortune.
The Orioles had scored four runs off San Diego Padres starter Jon Garland in the top of the first inning, matching their run total in each of Arrieta's first two starts.
But after the bottom of the third inning, both that lead and Arrieta were gone, and the Orioles' chances to win their first road series of the year went with them. Arrieta was knocked around for six runs (five earned) in just three innings, and the Orioles suffered their biggest blown lead of the season in a 9-4 loss, their 50th this year, in front of an announced Father's Day crowd of 28,029 at sun-splashed PETCO Park.
"We put ourselves in a really good position to win the series today. We came out and scored four in the first inning, and I just didn't hold up my end of the bargain," said Arrieta, who was bidding to become the first starter in Orioles history to win his first three starts. "I gave up one in the first, one in the second, and felt like I could still do a good job of pitching deep into the game and give the team a chance to win. Unfortunately, today, I just didn't have it."
Arrieta left up a first-pitch changeup that San Diego's Will Venable blasted over the right-field wall in the third inning, the three-run shot turning a one-run deficit into a 6-4 lead. The Padres' lead was never even remotely threatened as Garland survived a shaky first and retired the final 14 hitters he faced, a stretch that started when he got Miguel Tejada to hit into a double play with two on and nobody out in the second.
The defeat, their 19th in the past 23 games, assured that the Orioles (19-50) would remain winless in their past 12 series. They haven't won a road series all year. The Orioles didn't lose their 50th game last season until July 18 in game No. 90.
"We were in a good, good position to win, and they came back," said interim manager Juan Samuel, whose club is off Monday before beginning a nine-game homestand against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday. "You figured if we scored four runs, we need to add a few to win, and they just got tougher."
The Orioles did get a rare early break when, with the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, Padres third baseman Lance Zawadzki, normally a middle infielder, double-clutched after fielding Jones' grounder. Hustling all the way, Jones beat out the throw, giving the Orioles the 1-0 lead.
The slumping Matt Wieters then cleared the bases with a three-run double, breaking an 0-for-16 slump in the process.
"I felt better all day today," said Wieters, who went 1-for-3 with a walk after entering the game just 1-for-17 on the road trip. "I just relaxed, cleared the head and tried to hit the ball hard. I was able to get that one to fall in, and I just missed a couple of more."
But the Padres went to work early on Arrieta, who had allowed only four earned runs in 13 innings in winning his first two outings against the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. Tony Gwynn led off with a single, stole second and scored when Adrian Gonzalez slammed a one-out double into left-center field. Gonzalez had three doubles Sunday and finished the series
7-for-10 with five doubles and three RBIs.
An error by first baseman Luke Scott on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s hard grounder allowed another run to score in the second, an inning that ended with Patterson throwing out Hairston at the plate trying to score on Gwynn's fly ball to left field.
With the Padres trailing by only two runs, David Eckstein started the third inning with a double. Nick Hundley scored him with a single, and then, on Arrieta's first pitch after a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Venable laced a changeup into the seats for a three-run homer. It was fifth home run of the season.
"The changeup to Venable was up," Arrieta said. "Probably not a very good pitch selection there, but it could be the opposite way around. If I make a good pitch there, he hits a ground ball. That was the one pitch that kind of puts the nail in the coffin on the outing. Just really floated it up there, put it over the plate [and] he was able to put a good swing on it."
Said Wieters: "I think the pitch was fine. He's an aggressive guy so we want to go off-speed there. I just think the location was not great. He was probably a little out in front, but it was high enough and middle enough of the plate where he could hit it out."
Arrieta was removed for a pinch hitter in the top of the fourth inning. He allowed a total of five hits and three walks over three innings. The Orioles' relievers didn't fare much better, as Mark Hendrickson gave up a run and four hits in three innings and Frank Mata surrendered a two-run homer to Hundley in one inning. But it all started with Arrieta.
"His command wasn't there with any of his pitches," Samuel said. "He threw a few good changeups, but mainly you have to work with the fastball so your secondary pitchers could work, and he just couldn't get it going today."