The Baltimore Orioles are the hottest team in baseball right now, compiling a record of 31-13 since June 30. After having its streak of eight straight series wins snapped in Cleveland, the Orioles responded quickly by sweeping the White Sox. The O’s are clicking on all cylinders right now, whether it be powerful hitting, dominant pitching or lockdown defense. Baltimore will travel from the south side of Chicago to the north side to face the Chicago Cubs and former O’s pitcher Jake Arrieta on Friday.
Arrieta has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs, a team that is enduring yet another disappointing season. Traded last season along with reliever Pedro Strop for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger, Arrieta is 6-4 with 2.61 ERA in 19 starts this season. He also has 122 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP (For you non-baseball nerds, that’s walks plus hits per inning pitched). This is incredibly far from what the Orioles got out of him, which was a young pitcher that struggled mightily with his command and had a knack for giving up the long ball.
So, looking back at the trade, who got the best deal? Do the Orioles regret their decision to trade Arrieta away? Will they have an inside advantage against the right-hander on Friday? And ultimately, who’ll have the last laugh and win the series?
It seems as if the Cubs were the primary benefiter from the deal made last July. Feldman is no longer with the Orioles and Clevenger is in the minors. Arrieta has finally figured things out and has emerged as the ace he was expected to become. During a season where the Cubs traded away pitchers Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel, they expressed a firm commitment to Arrieta as a piece to build upon for the future. For the Orioles, it was a move that had to be made, and they shouldn’t reget it one bit. It became apparent that Arrieta was never going to improve in Baltimore, and needed a change of scenery. It was something that just wasn’t meant to be, and both sides had to move on.
When the Orioles step up to the plate against Arrieta, how will they fare? Baltimore has had success this year against a number of the game’s top pitchers, and have hit a league-leading 161 home runs this season. The key to success against Arrieta will be pressuring him early, taking advantage if he serves one up, and getting to the less effective Cubs bullpen. There’s a good chance to score runs against their old buddy Strop as well. As for who gets the last laugh, the Orioles are a much stronger ball club than the Cubs, and it will show this weekend in Chicago. Expect the Orioles to take at least two of the three games against the Cubs as they continue their playoff push.