HOUSTON -- As poorly as the first two games of their four-game series here at Minute Maid Park went, the Orioles can still salvage a split with a win this afternoon against the Astros.

The Orioles will have to get through a familiar foe to get that win.

Former Orioles right-hander Scott Feldman starts for the Astros this afternoon. The Orioles wanted to re-sign Feldman, who was acquired last July in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, but instead he signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Astros in the offseason.

On May 9, Feldman held the Orioles to two runs and five hits over six innings, striking out six and walking none. He allowed solo homers to Manny Machado and Steve Pearce.

Speaking of Pearce, it’s interesting to see his ascension over the past month.

In late April, the team was forced to designate Pearce for assignment in order to make room for left-hander T.J. McFarland. Now, he’s the Orioles' No. 2 hitter and has been in the starting lineup for five of the past seven games.

He entered the season as one of the Orioles’ outfielder-designated hitter options against left-handed pitching. But with his hot hitting, he has earned more of an everyday role.

Pearce’s defensive flexibility -- he was able to fill in at first base while Chris Davis was on the disabled list and later on paternity leave -- gave him opportunity to get into the starting lineup. And he has taken advantage of the opportunity. Along the way, he has shown how valuable a player he is, no matter where he plays.

On Friday night, Pearce made a diving catch to keep Miguel Gonzalez’s no-hit bid intact. On Saturday, he played a ball off the high left-field fence well, and threw out a Marwin Gonzalez at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.

“It’s a tough left field to play,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s a crook there where you can go back through, and you really got to know where you are at all times. Stevie doesn’t let inactivity, he doesn’t let excuses, inactivity or lack of experience somewhere, get in his way of doing a good job. He just, every time we win, there’s not many people more excited about the Orioles winning a baseball game than Steve Pearce. I get that. We get that about him.”

The Orioles are 2-4 on their three-city, 10-game road trip, so a win today can help them get back on track heading into Monday’s day off and going into their three-game series in Texas. The Orioles swept a three-game series in Arlington in their only trip there last season as part of their season-high six-game winning streak.

eencina@baltsun.com

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