It took the Orioles 20 games at the start of this season to win three times. It took three tries in three nights to accomplish the same feat under new manager Buck Showalter.
And this time he picked up his first series sweep and first walk-off victory in a 5-4 Orioles win against the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (35-73) remained perfect in the Showalter era when Cesar Izturis singled home pinch runner Julio Lugo with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Lugo was running for Matt Wieters, who led off the inning by doubling against Los Angeles reliever Francisco Rodriguez (0-3).
"I think we've been capable of playing like this all year," Wieters said. "We're putting together a nice streak of games, and we're getting good starting pitching."
Showalter is 3-0 as Orioles manager, but it was rookie starter Jake Arrieta who really deserved the win.
Consistently throwing a darting fastball at 94 mph and a sweeping curveball, Arrieta allowed just five hits and set big league career highs in innings (7 2/3) and pitches (108).
"It's got to be up at the top," Arrieta said of his start. "It's just a matter of making a few minor adjustments. The stuff wasn't any better than it has been all year. It's just a matter of being more aggressive in the zone early, and it makes a big difference throughout the course of the game."
He carried a perfect game bid into the fifth and a shutout bid into the eighth. But by the time that inning ended, Arrieta's best performance as a big leaguer had turned into a no-decision, thanks to a homer by Torii Hunter and an Orioles defensive gaffe.
Arrieta had allowed just three hits and one walk heading into the eighth with the Orioles up 4-0. He allowed a single to pinch hitter Reggie Willits, struck out the next batter and then walked Erick Aybar.
Maicer Izturis then hit a routine double-play ball to second baseman Brian Roberts, who had already missed converting a more difficult potential double-play ball in the game. Roberts bobbled the grounder and then had to quickly shovel the ball to second base for the sure out.
Instead of escaping the jam and preserving the shutout, Arrieta was pulled for left-hander Michael Gonzalez. Arrieta walked off the field to a standing ovation from the energetic announced crowd of 17,362.
"I wanted to stay in the whole game," Arrieta said, "I didn't know what Buck was thinking. But it came to a point in the game where a decision had to be made, and I think he made the right decision."
Gonzalez, who had allowed just one run in his past eight innings since coming off the disabled list, allowed an RBI single up the middle to Bobby Abreu to ruin the shutout bid.
Playing matchups, Showalter then brought in Jason Berken (3-2) to face Hunter, who slammed Berken's third pitch into the left-field seats for his 17th homer of the season, and a tie at 4.
It eliminated any chance of Arrieta's picking up his first win since July 11. He certainly deserved it, however. He allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four.
"This time of year, guys get a little recharged when they see the finish line," Showalter said. "Challenge young guys, all players, to finish strong. [Pitching coach Rick Kranitz] was telling me this is as good as he's seen Jake start to finish. Trying to protect him a little bit, too. He was outstanding. He was the difference in the game."
Arrieta's no-hit and perfect-game bids ended with two outs in the fifth, though right fielder Nick Markakis did his best to try to preserve them.
Markakis dove at a dying liner off the bat of Alberto Callaspo, but the ball bounced off his glove and toward the right-field corner. Callaspo made it to second but was stranded there when Howie Kendrick flied out to end the inning.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Arrieta's night was the control he exhibited. In his previous three starts, spanning 13 2/3 innings, he walked 13 batters. On Thursday, his first walk didn't come until he threw four consecutive balls to Peter Bourjos with one out in the sixth.
That was just the third time that Arrieta went to a three-ball count.
Bourjos advanced to second when Roberts muffed a short-hop grounder that had the potential to be an inning-ending double play. Instead, the Angels had two on and one out in a scoreless tie.
The Orioles rookie right-hander answered the challenge. He got both Izturis and Abreu to fly out, ending the threat.
Through five innings, the Orioles struggled to get to Angels right-hander Dan Haren, who had scattered five hits. Twice the Orioles had runners on first and second and couldn't get a key hit to end the shutout bid.
Markakis did it to lead off the sixth, hitting an 87 mph belt-high pitch from Haren into the right-field seats for his eighth homer of the season. The 412-foot blast gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. They picked up another run with two outs in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled to right and Felix Pie followed with a sharp liner to center to score Jones.