Orioles starter Jake Arrieta is congratulated in the dugout… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
Looking to stop a 10-game losing streak against the biggest boys on the block, the defending World Series champion New York Yankees, the Orioles did what they had done much of last season.
They dipped into the minors, calling on the final member of the so-called three-man cavalry who hadn't yet pitched in the majors, right-hander Jake Arrieta.
It worked, as the Orioles ended their losing streak by beating the Yankees, 4-3, in front of an announced 27,064 on Thursday night.
"I was just excited, really excited, knowing that I was going to be tested right out of the gate by one of the best teams in all of baseball," Arrieta said. "And to be able to throw well against these guys, it boosts confidence. It's a great one to build on moving on to my next start. I am going to have more confidence."
David Hernandez picked up the first save of his career with a scoreless ninth that secured Arrieta's first big league win -- and the traditional shaving cream towel in his face courtesy of Adam Jones.
The Orioles (17-43) hadn't beaten the Yankees (37-23) since their first meeting of the season on April 27.
"Jake Arrieta seems to probably relax a little bit more after the fourth inning," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said. "I think the adrenaline was running too high the first few innings. He seems to relax a little bit after that. Threw some good changeups at times, had some good movement on his fastball. It was a very good win for the ballclub and a very good win for Jake. We're very happy for him."
Arrieta, 24, had remained in the minors while watching so many other young arms get the call to the majors, including the other cavalry members, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman. But after what he did in Norfolk this season -- a 6-2 record, 1.85 ERA in 12 games -- it was just a matter of time before Arrieta received the big league call.
And his reward came in the form of pitching against the Yankees, the league's best-hitting team, which carried a .284 average into Thursday's game.
"We talked with him [Wednesday] and said, 'You are going to be thrown right into the fire,'" Samuel said before the game. "He said, 'Well, I am going to have to face those guys anyway. If it was not now, it was probably going to be later in my career.'"
If Arrieta pitches the way he did in the middle innings Thursday, it could be a career worth noting.
He retired the first four batters he faced before giving up his first major league hit, a double to Orioles killer Robinson Cano. Two batters later, Curtis Granderson tripled to score Cano and cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1. They scored two more in the third on an RBI double by Derek Jeter and a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher.
Swisher was the first of nine out of 10 batters retired by Arrieta, who mixed a curve, slider and changeup with a fastball that usually sits in the mid-90 mph range but hit as high as 97 mph thanks to first-start adrenaline.
Heading into 2010, Arrieta was listed by Baseball America as the organization's No.4 prospect, a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Texas Christian. Thought to have first-round talent, he fell in part because of perceived financial demands.
The Orioles gave him a $1.1 million bonus -- and it looked like a solid investment Thursday.
He struck out six and walked four -- two intentionally -- and allowed just four hits in six innings for a quality start. Perhaps his most impressive moment was his final one.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Arrieta got to a 1-2 count on Marcus Thames before throwing a nasty, 84 mph slider that the veteran flailed at for strike three.
"I know there's going to be a lot of times like that throughout my career where I'm going to have to make those type of pitches, and to be able to do it tonight in my debut was very important to me," Arrieta said. "It's a rewarding feeling."
Added Samuel: "I think you saw him pump his fist after getting that third out. He was pretty excited. I know it was a tough situation. We walked some hitters for him, loading the bases, but he made some pitches."
The Orioles took the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a double by Jones that scored Luke Scott, who had tripled. Scott initially threw his bat down in disgust, thinking he had flied out to right, but Swisher misjudged the ball against the wall.
The Orioles tied the game at 3 in the fifth when Scott Moore led off the inning with a home run to right-center -- his first big league homer since April 2008.
They scored their first two against A.J. Burnett (6-4) in the first on a sacrifice fly by Ty Wigginton and a single by Jones.
"It's real satisfying to go out there and throw well enough in my debut to get a win against these guys," Arrieta said. "It feels good. I really just wanted to go out there and make pitches and not let the adrenaline get the best of me. There were a lot of positives out of tonight."