BALTIMORE (AP) — Jake Arrieta walked to the mound with one purpose: to let everyone know the Baltimore Orioles aren’t as bad as advertised.
Arrieta pitched seven scoreless innings, Nick Markakis homered and drove in three runs, and the Orioles marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards by defeating the Minnesota Twins 4-2 Friday.
Baltimore has suffered through 14 straight losing seasons and is the popular choice to finish in the cellar of the AL East. On this day, however, the Orioles and Arrieta outshined Minnesota and veteran pitcher Carl Pavano.
“My mindset was to just really set the tone for our team in front of a great crowd,” Arrieta said. “There were a lot of excited fans for a new season, so it was important to come out and set the tone the way we did. As a whole, we take it personal that most people write us off from the get-go. We made a statement today: We’ve got a lot to play for this year.”
Making his first opening day start, Arrieta (1-0) allowed two hits, struck out four and walked two in a 97-pitch performance reminiscent of the gem that Rick Sutcliffe tossed against the Cleveland Indians in the ballpark’s first opener.
Sutcliffe, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday, christened Camden Yards by pitching a five-hit shutout on April 6, 1992.
The only two hits against Arrieta came in the fourth. The right-hander didn’t make it the distance, but that didn’t detract from what he accomplished in his first start since elbow surgery ended his season last August.
“I wanted to be ready for this day,” Arrieta said. “And being able to be on the mound today at 100 percent makes it all worth it.”
Baltimore newcomer Matt Lindstrom gave up two hits in the eighth and Troy Patton yielded a two-run homer to Josh Willingham in the ninth. Jim Johnson then got two outs — the last one with runners on the corners — for the save.
Markakis hit a two-run homer in the first inning and added an RBI triple in the sixth. He also walked and scored twice, but he acknowledged that the key player in the win was Arrieta.
“When you have a guy like Jake on the mound and he throws the way he did today, just score some runs for him,” Markakis said. “He set the tone. It starts with pitching.”
Pavano (0-1) allowed four runs and five hits over seven innings in his third career opening day start. He issued two walks, and both were costly.
“It is not the way you wanted to start the season, not individually or as a team,” Pavano said. “You have to tip your hats to them — they took advantage of what was given them. I walked two guys and they both scored.”
Minnesota opened last season with a 13-3 loss to Toronto and ended up finishing in last place. Pavano took the loss in that one, too.
This game, at least, was much closer.
“We made a run at them. We gave ourselves a shot,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Willy hit the big home run and we found ourselves out there in another situation where with another big hit, who knows what happens?”
Although the Orioles have fallen upon hard times since Camden Yards opened, the folksy, old-fashioned ballpark that stands in the shadow of the B&O Warehouse has undergone only a few cosmetic changes over the past 20 years.
Camden Yards used to attract a sellout crowd for every game. That is no longer the case, but on this day 46,773 fans packed the stadium under a clear sky on a chilly afternoon.
Soon after Sutcliffe casually tossed a strike on the outside corner to former battery mate Chris Hoiles, Arrieta began the Orioles’ season with a first-pitch strike to Denard Span.
The Twins didn’t get their first hit until Span beat out a grounder leading off the fourth. Justin Morneau then singled with two outs before Willingham lined out to left.
Markakis put Baltimore up 2-0 in the first with an opposite-field drive to left after J.J. Hardy drew a one-out walk. Pavano retired the next eight batters before Markakis drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. Adam Jones followed with a double and Matt Wieters hit a run-scoring grounder for a 3-0 lead.
In the sixth, Hardy led off with a single and Markakis hit a liner to right that Ryan Doumit failed to grab near the wall while looking into the sun.
NOTES: Markakis is the first Oriole to homer in his initial at-bat on opening day since Luis Matos in 2005. It was the third straight year the Twins opened the season on the road. Willingham played in his 800th career game. In his only start against the Twins last year, Arrieta threw six shutout innings. Baltimore is 13-4 at Camden Yards on opening day.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)