Arrieta solid as Orioles top Royals, 3-2

Starter calms down to give up one 1 run in 7 innings; Markakis has homer, 2 RBIs

  • Orioles starter Jake Arrieta pitches against the Royals. Arrieta allowed just one run in seven innings, improving to 4-1 as the Orioles held on to beat the Royals, 3-2, at Kauffman Stadium.
Orioles starter Jake Arrieta pitches against the Royals. Arrieta… (Kansas City Star photo )
May 05, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He walked the No. 8 hitter and the No. 9 hitter, both with two outs, and by the time the bottom of the second finally ended, Orioles starter Jake Arrieta had thrown 35 pitches in the inning and appeared to be on his way to a short night.

But rediscovering his command and showing no signs of the hip soreness that affected him in his last start, Arrieta settled in and delivered one of the best outings of his young career, retiring 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced and allowing just one run and three hits over seven innings.

Arrieta was rewarded with his fourth win thanks to a heads-up play by center fielder Adam Jones and a late home run by Nick Markakis that helped the Orioles survive some tense late moments to beat the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, Wednesday night in front of an announced 11,130 at Kauffman Stadium.

"He labored a little bit that [second] inning, but he got out of it," Jones said of Arrieta. "He got comfortable. It was a good overall team win. Everybody contributed."

Kevin Gregg retired Kila Ka'aihue on a flyout with a man on second to end it and pick up his sixth save, but the talk after the game was on a gutty decision by Jones in the eighth inning with the Orioles trying to hold a two-run lead.

Jones didn't try to pick up Mike Aviles' drive to left-center field off Jim Johnson that got stuck under the fence. He immediately threw his hands in the air to indicate that the ball was stuck while Alcides Escobar scored and Aviles was rounding the bases as the tying run.

The umpiring crew didn't make a call immediately, but second base umpire and crew chief Tim Welke jogged out to center field and ultimately ruled it a double. Escobar went back to third, and Aviles, who would likely have easily gotten into third on the hit, returned to second. That loomed large when the next batter, Melky Cabrera, hit a ball to the right side to score a run. Michael Gonzalez came on and retired Alex Gordon to strand Aviles at third and keep the Orioles' one-run lead intact.

"It was great to see that Jonesy had the awareness to keep his hands up and not maybe panic and go for the ball when he saw the umpire wasn't making that call," said Arrieta, who was watching the inning unfold from the dugout. "I think that was huge. He really showed a lot of composure there. It looked like he had a really good idea of what he was doing. That was probably the turning point of the game."

Arrieta (4-1) would get no argument from the Royals' clubhouse.

"I've been here since 2008, and I've never once seen a ball get stuck in the fence," Aviles said. "I was planning on being on third base with Escobar scoring. Then, it's a whole different ballgame. … [Jones] is an All-Star for a reason. He's a very good defensive center fielder. He can track it. That's just a smart, heads-up play. He picks up the ball, and we're sitting there with a run scored and a man on third. It's a whole different ballgame. Him putting his hands up, it's a risky play, but he's been around a bit. He knows whether it's going to be a double or not."

Jones said he familiarizes himself with the ground rules before every series at another team's park and has played at Kauffman Stadium enough to know that if a ball gets stuck under the fence, it's a ground-rule double.

"This is a place that has a little gap underneath to where a ball gets snuck. If the ball gets stuck, you put your hands up and it's a double," Jones said. "That turned out to be a huge play because instead, it would have been a guy scoring and a triple with one out. It goes back to playing attention. It's the small things that some people don't pay attention to that I kind of do. I've seen it before, and I almost reached for it. The instinct is to reach for it. I seen it under there, and I pulled my hand back because it wasn't moving."

The seven innings marked Arrieta's longest outing of the season and just the third time in 35 career big league starts that the 25-year-old has pitched seven innings or more.

Such an extended outing seemed highly doubtful in the second inning when Arrieta allowed a leadoff solo homer to Jeff Francoeur and back-to-back walks to the light-hitting duo of Matt Treanor and Alcides Escobar. He eventually got out of it by striking out Aviles -- one of eight punchouts for Arrieta -- but his pitch count was already at 48.

"I'm thinking, I hope he can get through the fifth inning," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Arrieta threw only 57 pitches in facing the minimum over the final five innings. Alex Gordon got the only hit during that stretch with a one-out single in the sixth, but he was quickly erased when shortstop Robert Andino made a diving play on Billy Butler's grounder to start an inning-ending double play.

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