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O's Arrieta beats Yankees in MLB debut

O's Arrieta beats Yankees in MLB debut

BALTIMORE -- Rookie Jake Arrieta circled the mound at Camden Yards, put his foot on the rubber and took a deep breath. The moment he had waited for his entire life arrived at approximately 7:08 p.m. ET on Thursday, and with it came arguably the most famous face in baseball: Derek Jeter.

Such is life when you're a young pitcher in the American League East, but when you're 24 years old and making your debut against the defending World Series champions, "life or death" seems more like it.

Prior to the game, interim manager Juan Samuel likened Arrieta's debut against the Yankees to "throwing him in the fire." And following Baltimore's 4-3 win, Arrieta's outing proved to be more about putting the fire out.

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With a crowd of 27,064 in attendance -- including around 16 of Arrieta's family members and friends who flew in from Texas -- the right-hander put on a show. He impressively held the Yankees to three runs on four hits and four walks -- two of which were intentional -- to pick up his first Major League "W" and help the O's snap a 10-game season skid against New York.

When Arrieta was first told the news of his promotion -- following Tuesday's game in Norfolk, Va. -- there was no need for him to check the big league schedule. He was well aware of which opponent was in town.

"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. "I really just wanted to go out there and make pitches and not let the adrenaline get the best of me."

Admittedly nervous on the inside, a seemingly stoic Arrieta came out firing to Jeter and retired the Yankees in order in a 16-pitch first inning. He yielded a run in the second courtesy of Curtis Granderson's RBI triple into the right-field corner, and the Yankees plated a pair of runs in the third. Arrieta opened that inning by issuing a walk to No. 9 batter Chad Moeller, and Jeter tripled him in before scoring on Nick Swisher's sacrifice fly.

Arrieta responded by striking out Mark Teixeira and getting Ramiro Pena (batting in lieu of Alex Rodriguez, who'd exited with tightness in his groin) to end the frame, starting a stretch in which nine of the next 10 Yankees were sent walking back to the dugout.

"It was an impressive debut," said catcher Matt Wieters, who had spent a half-season with Arrieta at high Class A Frederick. "Not [just] as far as the line, but how calm he was out there. He took his time. It was like he was making another start."

With some of the adrenaline that helped him storm out of the gate with a 97-mph fastball starting to dissipate, Arrieta only got better in the game's middle frames.

"I told myself before I came out that I'm not going to really throw with much effort tonight, because I knew I wouldn't need to," he said. "The sinker was kind of falling out of my hand, kind of tailing off and missing a few spots at times. But later in the game, my misses weren't by much."

Instead, it was the Yankees' offense that went missing, as Arrieta worked his way out of a jam in the sixth to keep the game within a run. With 82 pitches already under his belt, Arrieta got ahead of the first batter, Teixeira, 0-2 before surrendering a double to right field. Pena's sacrifice fly put the potential go-ahead run 90 feet away, and Arrieta issued a pair of intentional walks -- sandwiched around Jorge Posada's shallow fly ball -- to bring Marcus Thames to the plate.

"It never crossed my mind, getting him out of there," Samuel said of Arrieta, whose pitch count was hovering around 100. "I'm like, 'He's going to work his way out of this.' "

Arrieta needed just four pitches to dispose of Thames -- ending the at-bat with a nasty 83-mph slider -- to leave the bases loaded and bring the Orioles faithful to their feet.

"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 in my debut was very important to me," said Arrieta, who emphatically pumped his fist following Thames' final swing and miss.

The strikeout was Arrieta's sixth of the night, as he worked off a blistering fastball -- which was still hitting 96 mph in his final inning -- to set up some filthy offspeed stuff.

First to go down was Posada -- on a sequence of back-to-back changeups -- for the first out in the second inning. Granderson was caught looking on a 96-mph heater to end the fourth, Arrieta got the best of Thames twice and Swisher went down swinging on a seventh-pitch slider, stranding a runner in the fifth.

"I thought Jake threw the ball well," said Moeller, who was the Orioles' backup catcher last season and one of Baltimore's final cuts this spring.

"I'm happy for him that he got a chance. I figured it would come at some point soon. He threw the ball well and looked under control out there. He didn't seem frightened; what was going on inside, who knows? But I thought he handled himself well."

Playing with an energy and exuberance missing for most of the season's first few months, the Orioles gave Arrieta all the support he needed.

With one out in the seventh, Luke Scott sent a ball to the warning track in right field, and Swisher crashed against the wall in an unsuccessful effort to catch the ball, giving Scott an easy triple. Two pitches later, Adam Jones laced a double into center field off Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, scoring Scott and giving the O's a one-run lead that would prove to be the decisive margin. It was Jones' second RBI of the night; the center fielder had singled in Miguel Tejada in a two-run first inning.

Second baseman Scott Moore launched a solo homer in the fifth for his first long ball of the year, a 394-foot shot to right-center. The blast, which tied the score at 3, was Scott's first homer since April 8, 2008.

"It was a fastball over the plate, and fortunately, I was able to barrel it," Moore said. "One-run game, it felt good. Always feels good."

The O's bullpen kept the positive vibes flowing. Frank Mata retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh and Will Ohman pitched his way out of a pair of walks to end the frame. Ohman sent the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the eighth before passing the baton to David Hernandez, who recorded his first career save in his first opportunity.

"That definitely probably ranks up there with my Major League debut," said Hernandez, who was moved out of the Orioles' rotation last month.

"There was a lot of things going through my mind, especially when I was running out [of the bullpen]," Hernandez said. "Definitely a tough lineup to get a save against. It was all euphoric, that's what it was."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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