Chicago Cubs’ pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop threw brilliantly against the Baltimore Orioles, their former team, yesterday. Arrieta picked up the win, allowing just one run on four hits over seven innings and Strop struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning en route to a 4-1 win. Facing a former team can be a challenging task for some ball players, but clearly Arrieta and Strop brought their A-game.
Arrieta was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth round of the 2007 amateur draft and was with the organization until he was traded to the Cubs’ last summer. Pedro Strop made 111 appearances for the Orioles when he was with the organization from 2011-2013. Needless to say, Arrieta (in particular) and Strop have a long history with the Baltimore Orioles organization. During their time with the O’s, Arrieta and Strop were teammates with seven of the eight Orioles’ starting position players (in the MLB or at AAA), thus breeding a lot of familiarity between the two sides.
It’s hard to say who has the leg up in situations like these. In theory, the hitter’s know the pitcher’s arsenal and what he likes to throw and the pitcher should have the inside knowledge on how to get the hitters out and what their weaknesses are, but with modern scouting most teams already have this knowledge anyway. The real challenge in facing your former team is being able to stay in the present and avoid losing focus. In normal situations, the hitter is just some guy who you need to get out, but when you have a preexisting relationship it changes things. All of a sudden you’re not just trying to get some guy named Chris Davis out, you are trying to get Chris Davis, your friend and the guy who helped with that hilarious prank during that epic rain delay, out You both give a nod before the at bat begins but it doesn’t go back to business as usual. Additionally, it is incredibly easy to overthink the situation and fall into a self-made mental-conundrum about what pitch to throw; you know what he is expecting but is he expecting that you know what he is expecting or should you expect that he knows that you know that he is in your head, ect.
The distractions can be even greater when you return to a city that you once called home, as well, because the distractions don’t just exist when you are at the ballpark. Returning to a previous home is like coming home from college for the first time; you want to drive too fast down Main street, stay out late, see all your old friends and visit your old stomping grounds. Luckily for Arrieta and Strop, this meeting was in Chicago, their new home.
While many struggle against their former teams, there are also some who thrive on the challange, usually the ones who leave on bad terms. And although there doesn’t appear to be any bad blood between Arrieta, Strop and the O’s, those two dominated for eight innings and played a huge part in a big win for the good guys. The Cubs have played .500 baseball over their last 18 games.
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