BALTIMORE — For all the hype about the additions the Orioles made to their lineup during the offseason, the most productive player thus far is the one who's worn a Baltimore uniform the longest: leadoff batter Brian Roberts.
Roberts hit a three-run homer, Jake Arrieta allowed one run in six innings, and the unbeaten Orioles thrilled a sellout crowd in their home opener by defeating the Detroit Tigers 5-1 Monday.
On a gorgeous afternoon at Camden Yards, Baltimore extended a surprising winning streak that began with a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay. Off to its best start since 1997, the Orioles (4-0) have not yet trailed, haven't given up more than one run in a game, and have outscored the competition 17-4.
With the score tied at 1 in the fifth, Felix Pie walked and went to third on a double by J.J. Hardy before Roberts hit a 1-2 pitch from Rick Porcello (0-1) over the wall in right-center. Roberts has Baltimore's only two home runs this season and has a team-high eight RBIs.
Since making his debut with the Orioles in 2001, Roberts has never been a part of a winner. But he's played in two All-Star games and has built a reputation as one of the finest leadoff hitters in the game.
"Robby seems to have been able to dial up what was needed, whether it be a stolen base, a walk, whatever," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's got a feel for being able to challenge the moment. He's really had some big hits for us early in the year."
Roberts knows that a 4-0 start means little, but he wasn't going to downplay it, either.
"I don't think anybody's ever had a bad 4-0 start," he said. "It's been awesome. I certainly have been through a lot. We all know that. But with the expectations coming into this year, to still be able to go out there and do that, it's been great for us."
With a crowd of 46,593 looking on, the Orioles continued their solid play under Showalter. Baltimore went 34-23 after he took over last year, and the offseason acquisitions of Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Hardy, and Mark Reynolds have Orioles fans hopeful that the team's run of 13 straight losing seasons will end in 2011.
The players are starting to think that way too.
"We're aware of the talent we have," Arrieta said. "If we go out there and pitch and keep our team in the game, it's only a matter of time before we put some runs on the board. Somebody's going to have the hot hand."
Arrieta (1-0) gave up six hits, walked two, and struck out three. Orioles starters have allowed two runs in 26 innings, a 0.69 ERA.
After Roberts' homer, Nick Markakis got his third hit, a double, and Matt Wieters delivered a two-out RBI single for a 5-1 lead.
Jason Berken followed with two innings of one-hit relief and Koji Uehara pitched the ninth.
Will Rhymes drove in the lone run for the Tigers, who arrived after dropping two of three at Yankee Stadium. Detroit doesn't begin the home portion of its schedule until Friday.
Slugger Miguel Cabrera and reliever Brayan Villarreal played despite feeling ill.
"We just didn't do much offensively," manager Jim Leyland said. "Without making an alibi, we had two or three guys throwing up during the game, sick. ... I certainly don't want to downplay the fact their guy pitched good, I don't mean that. It was just a little rough for some of the guys."
Porcello yielded five runs, nine hits and a walk in five innings.
"He wasn't great, but he was OK," Leyland said.
Baltimore went up 1-0 in the second inning when Wieters hit a leadoff double and scored on Porcello's two-out wild pitch.
Detroit pulled even in the third. After Brandon Inge doubled and scored on a single by Rhymes, Cabrera flied out with two outs and runners at second and third.
The Tigers got only two runners in scoring position the rest of the way.
NOTES: Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Showalter. ... RF Magglio Ordonez started for Detroit after missing Sunday's game with a sore right ankle. He snapped an 0-for-9 start with a fifth-inning single. ... Baltimore is 38-20 in home openers, including 5-0 against Detroit. ... Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was hospitalized Monday with a high fever and will be replaced by Brad Bergesen as the starter Wednesday.