BALTIMORE -- Jake Arrieta sat at his locker in street clothes, long since showered and changed after allowing nine earned runs in only four innings, bracing for the onslaught of questions that was sure to come.
"How difficult are things right now?"
"Is this as frustrated as you've been this season?"
"Is this the toughest stretch of your career?"
To each, Arrieta answered in the affirmative.
Then, the capper: "Do you expect to still be here after tonight?"
By his own admission, Arrieta's start was among the worst of his career in the midst of the poorest and most frustrating stretch of his life. He allowed career highs of nine runs on 11 hits as the Phillies opened the three-game Interleague series with a 9-6 victory on Friday at Camden Yards.
Arrieta leads the Majors with eight losses.
"Frustration seems to continue to build, and just having a hard time getting out of it," Arrieta said. "It's wearing on me a little bit. Searching for answers and not being able to find them is tough."
The outing was the latest in a string of bad starts for Arrieta, who faced questions about a possible demotion to Triple-A Norfolk after giving up four runs in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Not surprisingly, those questions were asked again on Friday.
"I don't know, I haven't really thought about it," Arrieta said. "I'm just kind of lost right now."
"We'll sit down and see what the best move for us is," said manager Buck Showalter, who will have to create space on the 25-man roster so Tommy Hunter can start on Saturday. "We know Jake is capable of a lot better."
The loss extended Arrieta's losing streak to a career-long six. Over that seven-start stretch, his ERA is 9.34.
That run started after a brilliant outing in which Baltimore's Opening Day starter threw eight shutout innings in a win against the Yankees, showing the type of stuff that makes his struggles so mystifying.
"I can get big league hitters out," Arrieta said. "There's no question about that, and I can do it at a high level. Just not being able to put it together for a complete start right now in a stretch of four or five outings is very frustrating. I think everyone here knows what I can do."
Arrieta's nine earned runs allowed are the most by an Orioles starter since Jason Berken did the same on June 6, 2009.
A Philadelphia offense that entered Friday averaging 3.29 runs per game in seven June contests throttled the right-hander from the opening inning.
While Arrieta's struggles were apparent, suspect defense and a little bit of bad luck played a role.
With two outs in the first inning, Hunter Pence singled to right and advanced to second on a rare infield single by Jim Thome that dribbled into the grass between Arrieta and second baseman Robert Andino.
Shane Victorino followed with an RBI single up the middle.
"We came out hitting," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "The runs we got early were a huge boost to us, because we haven't gotten that many runs in quite a while."
The floodgates opened in the second, as Philadelphia batted around, notching a single, three doubles, a triple and a two-run home run.
"I didn't command the ball well," Arrieta said. "Left pitches up. Just things didn't go my way, and just tough inning. Real tough inning."
Ty Wigginton started the frame with a double to left and scored on former Orioles first-round pick Mike Fontenot's two-run homer. Earlier in Fontenot's at-bat, J.J. Hardy ranged into foul territory and dropped what would have been a difficult catch on a popup.
With two outs and the bases empty, Juan Pierre hit a triple to left-center that got by Adam Jones, who took a poor route to the ball. After Arrieta hit Pence, Thome plated Pierre with a ground-rule double to right-center and Victorino hit a grounder sharply down the first-base line that skipped by Mark Reynolds' glove for a two-run double.
Carlos Ruiz singled up the middle to plate Victorino and cap the inning.
Arrieta left the mound after the second to a mix of cheers and boos, although most of the cheers came from the Phillies fans who made up a sizable portion of the 40,459 fans in attendance.
Arrieta appeared to settle down, but he was eventually dealt a knockout blow in the fourth.
After retiring six consecutive batters -- including striking out the side in the third -- Arrieta allowed a two-out double to Thome and a two-run homer to Victorino, who was a triple shy of the cycle and had tied a career high with five RBIs by the fourth inning.
The split in Arrieta's performance -- from being pounded in the second to striking out the side in the third -- is at the root of most of the frustration.
"It probably tells you there are probably some other things going on besides physical issues," said Showalter, adding that Arrieta's confidence was likely affected. "That's human nature."
"It's kind of tough to figure, because he was in stride a little bit there and strikes out three or four and looks like he's going to be able to give us four or five and it just didn't materialize," Showalter continued. "It's not good. Jake knows that. It's not good enough."
With two outs, Arrieta allowed six runs and nine hits.
While Arrieta's run support has typically been among the worst in the Majors -- his 3.21 runs of support entering Friday was fifth-worst among American League starters -- the O's offense did its part Friday night.
Thanks to a two-run home run by Hardy, a two-run double by Andino and a 2-for-3, two-RBI performance from Chris Davis that included a solo shot, the Orioles pushed six runs across the plate.
Phillies starter Joe Blanton exited after allowing five earned runs on seven hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings.
Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.