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Jake Arrieta has strong showing in Orioles' 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh

Jake Arrieta’s bid to make the Orioles’ rotation likely was strengthened Monday when he allowed two hits and struck out five through four innings in a 4-3 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Arrieta became the first Orioles pitcher to go more than three innings this spring, and he did it in fairly impressive fashion, allowing just a two-out double and a two-out single in separate innings. Otherwise, he was perfect.

“Overall, yeah, I liked the outing. I started out very strong,” said Arrieta, who has not allowed an earned run in his last seven innings pitched. “All in all, today was a good day. I was able to work my way back into some counts that I got behind in and get some big outs.”

Arrieta said he has been working with pitching coach Rick Adair to get better out of the stretch – when runners are on base. Now, he said, he’s pitching so much better in that phase that he needs to tighten his mechanics from the windup, which was how he threw for most of the outing.

If there were a blemish in Arrieta’s day it’s that he only threw 34 of his 60 pitches for strikes, a ball-strike ratio that Orioles manager Buck Showalter said needs to improve.

“Jake was OK; he only had four, first-pitch strikes. That’s something he’s got to get better at,” Showalter said. “He had some deep counts he shouldn’t have had. But statistically, results, he threw zeroes out there. But he’s got to get some counts in his favor.”

Despite the amount of balls he threw, Arrieta’s pitch count was reasonable and no Pirate got past second base against him.

“It’s spring training and there are things I have to work on and get ready for the season. But, at the same time, I’ve still got to go out there and compete,” said Arrieta, last year’s Opening Day starter who was 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) in 2012. “So I think when I did get behind some guys I was able to come right back at them and attack and even the count and get some big outs.”

Another pitcher battling for the rotation, lefty Zach Britton, threw two innings of relief, striking out two and allowing one run on a Josh Harrison RBI double. Britton also hit a batter. Because he threw just two innings, Britton will start Friday’s game against Boston, Showalter said.

The Pirates scored three runs in their final two innings to win the game. Daniel Schlereth served up a solo home run to Brad Hawpe in the eighth and Adam Russell allowed two runs in the ninth as the Pirates rallied for the victory.

The Orioles scored two of their three runs against Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, who is likely in line for a rotation spot.

Outfielder Lew Ford homered and singled off Locke and is now batting .550 (11-for-20) this spring. Danny Valencia and L.J. Hoes also drove in runs.

The Orioles dropped to 10-4-1 in Grapefruit League action.

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