Steve Pearce was just hoping to find a new team by mid-June before he had to embark on a 13-game road odyssey with his minor league club.
Instead, of busing around the bushes with a Triple-A squad without a home, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Pearce found himself with the Orioles on June 2.
And within two weeks he's become just another ho-hum, unexpected Orioles hero in an early season that keeps producing them like the Chesapeake spills out blue crabs.
On Thursday night, these upstart Orioles pounded the Pittsburgh Pirates, 12-6, partially because of Pearce, who had a career-high five RBIs.
“It felt good I'll tell you that,” said Pearce, whose three-run homer in the fourth inning was his first as an Oriole and first in the big leagues since May 25, 2011, when he was with the Pirates. “Everybody's hitting. It's contagious. Everybody just wants to get to the plate, and tonight was one of those nights again.”
Pearce had played his entire big league career, parts of five seasons, with the Pirates before debuting with the Orioles on June 3.
“It is nice playing against the Pirates,” he said. “It just feels good having a great game and helping contribute to this win.”
He wasn't the only Oriole to drive in five runs Thursday. Catcher Matt Wieters had a one-run single, a two-run single and two one-run doubles. It was only the second time in club history that two Orioles have had at least five RBIs in the same game. Cal Ripken Jr. (6 RBIs) and Will Clark (5 RBIs) did it June 13, 1999 at Atlanta.
“The guys put some good at-bats together early and were able to get on base,” said Wieters, who had four hits and is batting .367 in his last 49 at-bats. “The top of the lineup got on base. We came up with some big hits tonight. That's great.”
For a brief period, there looked like there might be more history made at Camden Yards. Orioles starter Tommy Hunter (3-3) retired the first 12 batters he faced before losing the perfect game, no-hitter and shutout in the fifth inning.
“I thought his first four innings were as good as I've seen Tommy, maybe period,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He was real sharp. Then we had the real long inning. … It's a difficult thing to do, to sit around that long and then go out there.”
Pirates catcher Rod Barajas had the big blow in the fifth, a three-run homer against Hunter, who allowed five earned runs in six innings and picked up his first victory since April 24.
“I actually felt really strong today. It [stinks] to say that's the best you felt and turn around and see five runs on the board,” Hunter said. “But that's the way it is going to go sometimes. Just take those first four innings and take them into your next start.”
Before an enthusiastic announced crowd of 29,995, the Orioles (37-26) completed their first three-game sweep at Camden Yards since late April and improved to 7-2 in interleague games this season, matching their win total (7-11) in interleague games last year. That's a stark turn of fortune for an organization that entered Thursday with the worst all-time interleague record of any American League team.
The 12 runs scored and 16 hits marked season highs for the Orioles, who have now won five straight, seven of nine and have crept within a half game of the idle New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. Mark Reynolds had four hits, including his second homer in two games, and two of the club's season-high eight doubles.
Most of the damage came against Pittsburgh lefty Erik Bedard, whom the Orioles dealt to Seattle in February 2008 for five players, including center fielder Adam Jones. Bedard (4-7) was pitching in Camden Yards as a member of the opposition for just the second time in his career.
Last September, while with the Boston Red Sox, he gave up three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings here. On Thursday, he again lasted just 3 1/3 innings, but this one — his earliest non-injury departure of 2012 — was much worse.
Bedard was charged with seven earned runs on eight hits, two walks and one hit batter. It was a nightmare from the beginning. He threw 36 pitches in the first — nine in a walk to Davis — and allowed four two-out runs. Wieters had a RBI single, Reynolds added a RBI double and Pearce followed with a two-run double. Three innings later, Pearce homered against lefty Doug Slaten.
The 29-year-old infielder-outfielder was drafted in the eighth round by the Pirates in 2005 out of the University of South Carolina. He rushed through the minors and debuted by 2007. But various injuries derailed his career.
“I earned playing time over there with the Pirates organization I just wasn't able to stay healthy,” Pearce said. “It's nice having a new opportunity somewhere else and, if I can stay healthy, it's going to be a fun year.”
The Pirates non-tendered him in the offseason, and when he didn't make the Minnesota Twins out of spring training, the Yankees picked him up and sent him to their Triple-A club. Due to stadium construction, that team has had to play its home games in Rochester, N.Y., and a large chunk on the road. They didn't have a home clubhouse, using a side room at Rochester's stadium.
“We had to play with what we had,” said Pearce who batted .321 with 11 homers in 52 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “Tiny clubhouse, the weight room was in the hallway. We knew going into the season we had to deal with it. It was frustrating, but what can you do?”
Pearce exercised an opt-out of his clause on June 1 and the Yankees sent him to the Orioles for cash considerations. Not only was he going back to the big leagues, but he also was getting out of what would have been a 13-game road trip.
Instead of being a road warrior, Pearce has started six of his seven games played for the Orioles and was hitting .286 heading into Thursday.
That's when he joined a growing list of players that didn't start the season here yet have made an impact in at least one game: Bill Hall, Steve Tolleson, Xavier Avery, Dana Eveland, Miguel Gonzalez and Stu Pomeranz.
Pearce's performance, though, may have been the most impressive, because it came against the club that gave up on him and it surpassed his offensive output of the season to that point.
“I actually got sent down and got to play against him for two or three days whenever Scranton came to Norfolk, and I looked up at his numbers and he had video game stats up in Triple-A,” Hunter said. “The next day he is with the Orioles. And tonight he has five RBIs and has a career night. You are happy for him. It's definitely a special day for him.”
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