Nearly 14 months since his previous start, which ended with his getting hit in the back of the head with a line drive, Chris Jakubauskas received an uplifting win and one more reminder of how far he has come since that horrific incident.
One out shy of completing five scoreless innings Tuesday night, Jakubauskas was nailed above his left ankle by Cliff Pennington's comebacker. This time, he stayed on the mound and recorded one more out before turning over the game to the Orioles' bullpen.
The Orioles got three solo home runs and four scoreless innings from their relief corps to back Jakubauskas and take a 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics in front of an announced 13,652 at Camden Yards. It was the eighth straight loss for the A's (27-35).
"I knew what it was -- spot start, go out, try and get five or six innings, save the 'pen so we don't have to use [Alfredo] Simon or anyone else for too long," said Jakubauskas (1-0), who had made five relief appearances for the Orioles before Tuesday night's start, allowing nine earned runs on 18 hits and six walks over 12 2/3 innings.
"Luckily, it went that way. It definitely felt good to get back out, start a game and let it be mine from minute one, but like I said before, it's whatever they want me to do. I was happy to take the ball."
With the five scoreless innings, Jakubauskas, whose 2010 season ended April 24 when he was hit by Lance Berkman's liner while he was starting for the Pittsburgh Pirates, earned his first win since he pitched two scoreless innings in relief in the Seattle Mariners' victory over the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 12, 2009.
The Orioles (28-31) also clinched their first series victory against Oakland since July 20-22, 2007, ending a streak of eight consecutive losing series against the A's. They will go for the series sweep tonight behind rookie left-hander Zach Britton, who was roughed up by Oakland a little more than a week ago.
"We had some hairy guys hit the ball in the seats, and we pitched well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That's the combination from years gone by here."
J.J. Hardy, hitting leadoff for the first time in his career, launched Guillermo Moscoso's second pitch of the game into the left-field seats for his fifth home run of the year. It was the Orioles' first leadoff homer since Brian Roberts accomplished the feat Sept 13.
"I feel like I am capable of driving the ball," said Hardy, who has homered in three of his past six games. "There were times last year that I felt like even if I did put a good swing on it, I couldn't hit a homer. Whenever you do that, you get confidence. And I feel pretty good out there."
Luke Scott, who was playing for the first time since getting a cortisone shot in his ailing right shoulder Sunday, drove Moscoso's second pitch of the fifth inning onto Eutaw Street for his seventh homer of the season and first since May 3. It was his sixth career Eutaw Street home run, passing Rafael Palmeiro for the all-time lead. Scott added a well-struck double in the seventh before giving way to pinch-runner Felix Pie, who scored on Mark Reynolds' RBI double.
"Playing through pain and playing through discomfort, it was tough," Scott said. "Today, I think the medicine really kicked in. It's the first time in six weeks I could [extend my right arm]. For me, that's a great victory and a blessing. I'm happy the way I'm feeling now with the shoulder."
Adam Jones greeted reliever Michael Wuertz with a solo shot in the sixth inning, his eighth of the season. But the story was the pitching staff, which allowed just five hits and one walk while turning in its fourth shutout of the season.
Jakubauskas surrendered just three hits and walked one while striking out five. Clay Rapada retired the only two hitters he faced in his first appearance since May 28, Jeremy Accardo turned in 2 1/2 key innings, and Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth.
The Orioles have been going with a four-man rotation because the five days off they have this month necessitate the use of a fifth starter only twice in June. Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor's decision to give the ball to Jakubauskas -- as opposed to starting Simon or summoning Chris Tillman or Brad Bergesen back to the big leagues -- was an interesting one because the 32-year-old right-hander had a 6.39 ERA and is in his third stint with the Orioles this season.
However, it worked out as Jakubauskas was really in trouble only in the fourth, when he retired Kurt Suzuki with two men on to end the inning. He got two quick outs in the fifth before Pennington ripped the liner off his leg.
"As long as it's not in the head, it is what it is," Jakubauskas said. "If it's my time to get hit again, it's my time to get hit. There were some choice words that went through my mind after it happened, but I try to keep those as quiet as I could. It was more of just: 'I can't believe this. Really? Again I got hit?' "
Jakubauskas, who had been hit so hard by Berkman's liner that the ball ricocheted off his right ear and landed behind the catcher, hobbled around the mound Tuesday as head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, Showalter and Connor emerged from the dugout. He threw a few warm-up tosses before staying in the game. He needed just one pitch to retire rookie Jemile Weeks and qualify for a win that was a long time coming.
"Jak's got a great personality," said Showalter, who also said the Orioles would consider giving Jakubauskas another start. "That's why people are kind of drawn to him. When something like that is close to being taken away from you completely, you can get a little better grip on reality."