Markakis, Arrieta boost O's to Opening Day win

BALTIMORE - For one day, Jake Arrieta and Nick Markakis put any questions about their post-surgery effectiveness to rest.

On a breezy Opening Day, on the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards' debut, Arrieta cruised through the Minnesota lineup and Markakis toyed with Twins starter Carl Pavano, leading the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-2 win Friday before a sold-out crowd of 46,773.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was proud to see two players who put in so much work in rehab just to be able to play against Minnesota be the key contributors to a Game 1 win.

"I told the players yesterday after the workout that they had done so many things to get to this point. Now just trust yourself and go do it," Showalter said. "There are a lot of guys, whether it be Nicky or Brian Matusz, I can go right on down the line.

"Now you put yourself in position to reap the benefits of that hard work and you don't have that doubt in the back of your mind. Jake did that."

Arrieta (1-0), who didn't pitch after July 31 last season to have bone chips removed from his pitching elbow, posted a 6.14 ERA during the spring.

Against the Twins (0-1), the right-hander showed how little those stats matter.

Arrieta allowed just two hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings. He needed the minimum nine batters to get through the first three frames before surrendering both hits in the fourth.

There was little to criticize about the 26-year-old's first Opening Day start as he didn't let a runner past second base, struck out four and racked up five assists.

"My mindset was to just really set the tone for our team in front of a great crowd," Arrieta said. "I think that was important to come out and set the tone the way we did."

Arrieta said his work to accelerate his offseason rehab process made that performance rewarding.

"I wanted to be ready for this day. And being able to be on the mound today at 100 percent makes it all worth it," he said. "Avoiding 3-1, 2-1 counts, is a big reason why I was able to pitch into the seventh inning today. That's what I have to do to be successful: Be aggressive."

Pavano (0-1) didn't fare nearly as well, mostly because of Markakis.

The Baltimore right fielder began his huge day in his first at-bat, clearing the wall in left for an opposite-field two-run homer on the second pitch he faced in the first inning. He didn't record his first homer of 2011 until the seventh game and became the first Oriole to homer in his initial at-bat on Opening Day since Luis Matos in 2005.

Markakis added a walk and a run on Matt Wieters' RBI groundout in the fourth, and capped the Orioles' scoring with an RBI triple in the sixth.

Like Arrieta, Pavano lasted seven innings, but permitted four runs on five hits.

Markakis was at the center of it with two hits and three RBIs a hair over three months after undergoing abdominal surgery on Jan. 5. With that in mind, he said it's a day he'll remember.

"Out of seven seasons, this is probably my best start," Markakis said. "I've been a slow starter in the past and that's something you work toward and you build on."

The Orioles (1-0) were in control from the start, and took a 4-0 lead into the ninth. But reliever Troy Patton gave up a two-run homer to Josh Willingham, halving the margin with one out to bring closer Jim Johnson out of the bullpen.

After fanning Ryan Doumit, Johnson walked the next batter and permitted a single to let the Twins bring the winning run to the plate. But Johnson earned save No. 1 by inducing a game-ending grounder from Trevor Plouffe.

To have a start like that with contributions from two key players returning from surgery in a charged-up Opening Day atmosphere meant a little extra to Showalter.

"I got emotional a couple times today just seeing how much it means to the people in Baltimore," he said. "They grow up with the Orioles. I'll be the first to tell you, it gives me a lot more responsibility, anxiety, delivering what they deserve.

"That atmosphere is special and I know it used to be like that every night. Our players, I know they get a taste of it. This group of guys talks about it. They know what this fan base is like and it's up to us to tap deeper into it."

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