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O's end first half with sweep of Rangers

O's end first half with sweep of Rangers

ARLINGTON -- The Orioles hit the All-Star break Sunday afternoon after putting together their best series of the season, a four-game road sweep of the American League West-leading Rangers.

It should come as no surprise to diehard Orioles fans that pitching was at the heart of it.

On Sunday, rookie Jake Arrieta followed up teammate Chris Tillman by putting together one of the Orioles' best pitching performances of the season. Arrieta, who hails from the Dallas suburb, Plano, and who pitched at nearby TCU, allowed six hits -- five of them singles -- in 6 1/3 innings as Baltimore finished off Texas with a 4-1 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

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For Arrieta, it was a second straight strong start, making it a little different from Tillman, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday after being called up from Triple-A Norfolk, where the 22-year-old went to figure out why he was 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in three Major League starts earlier this season.

Arrieta has proven to be much more consistent. He put together his second consecutive start where he allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings. He has five quality starts now in seven outings for the Orioles and moved his record to 3-2 and lowered his ERA to 4.38.

Arrieta is already a self-professed confident 24-year-old pitcher. But to pitch this well in his hometown, or close to it -- TCU is only 15 minutes from Rangers Ballpark -- and to do it in front of 100 family and friends in attendance only helps in his development.

"For me, my confidence is always up, no matter what the situation is, even with two or three bad outings in a row," Arrieta said. "That's what makes me a good pitcher -- my confidence. It doesn't hurt when you get back-to-back strong starts. It only helps."

Sparked by a second successive quality start from one of their young pitchers, the Orioles swept their first four-game road series since 1995. It's the Orioles first four-game sweep of the Rangers in Arlington since 1976.

Arrieta settled in after allowing a home run to Rangers All-Star Ian Kinsler in the first inning to fall behind, 1-0. He did so by throwing his fastball for strikes, even after giving up the early home run. He said the homer he gave up to Kinsler came on a fastball that just got away from him.

"Just continue to tell myself to make pitches, to make quality pitches," Arrieta said. "If I fell behind in the count, I was able to make some good pitches. I was very effective with throwing a lot of strikes and throwing off speed when I had to."

Arrieta made his most important pitch with runners at first and second and one out in the bottom of the fifth and hanging on to a 3-1 lead. He got Rangers third baseman Michael Young to hit a fastball down and away into a 6-4-3 double play to end the Texas threat.

"I executed properly," said Arrieta, who noted he watched Young play in Arlington when he was in high school at Plano East.

Meanwhile, Arrieta's offense did just enough. Trailing 1-0, the Orioles pieced together a three-run second inning. Second baseman Julio Lugo tied the score at 1, notching a double on an 0-2 pitch. Corey Patterson, whose dramatic grand slam on Friday tied the game at 6 in the ninth inning, followed up with a two-run double to give the Orioles their first lead.

Patterson, who had struggled in the past in Texas, had eight RBIs for the series.

"It was a pretty good series for myself overall and for my teammates," Patterson said. "It shows we can play with anybody and have a better second half."

Miguel Tejada added a home run for insurance in the top of the ninth inning, kind of capping a series out of nowhere for the Orioles, who also got a strong series from their bullpen.

"For whatever reason, these guys didn't have any pressure on them." Rangers starter C.J. Wilson said. "They're playing well. The young guys are hungry. They're swinging the bat well. Every one of their pitchers threw strikes with two or three different pitches. It makes it tough to hit, regardless of how old the guy is, how young he is, how hard he throws or whatever."

Sunday's young pitcher, Arrieta, just happened to hail from the area, and showed no ill effects from pitching at home, or in front of his family and friends.

"I can't say it enough, to sweep this team, one of the best teams in the league, in Arlington, that's huge for our team's confidence," Arrieta said. "It's a great way to end the first half. We're doing a lot of good things right now. Hopefully we can keep it going in the second half."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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