With a couple of RBIs and great defense, Travis Snider is driving force in O's win

Travis Snider has to fill big shoes in right field, but he got off to a nice start on Opening Day.

Travis Snider has made it clear since he was traded to the Orioles in January that he's not Nick Markakis. He's not trying to be Markakis or trying to replace Markakis.

"I don't look at it as filling anybody's shoes," said Snider, who on Monday became the first Oriole besides Markakis to start in right field on Opening Day since 2006. "I understand what Nick was able to do here. As I've said before, he's a tremendous player. But the focus for us remains on the guys that are here and whatever we've got to do every night to win ballgames."

Snider was the driving force in the Orioles' 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday afternoon. He had two singles and a double, drove in two runs and became the first Orioles player since Ronny Paulino in 2012 to have three hits in his team debut.

He also made two excellent defensive plays: a diving catch in the sixth, and a tremendous, one-hop throw to catcher Caleb Joseph in the fifth that stopped James Loney from scoring.

"Game situation presents an opportunity to make a play. You come up and try to make a good throw," said Snider, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers. "Knowing there's two outs and the guy's going to be trying to score, you just put the ball on the mark and let the infielders decide what they're going to do with it. Caleb made a great tag, and it was a great play at both ends."

Starting pitcher Chris Tillman gave credit to Snider for making his job easier — and initially filling the void left by Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Atlanta Braves in December.

"Travis Snider picked me up big time in right field," Tillman said. "I think we've got big shoes to fill and he did every bit of it today. He made some good plays, a good throw and some big hits. I'm happy for him. I really am. I'm pulling for the guy."

Snider, 27, was one of the top prospects in baseball while coming up through the Toronto Blue Jays organization. After several uneven years, he was solid for the Pirates in 2014 and hopes to get regular playing time in Baltimore. He certainly made a good first impression.

"Trav made two really good plays," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't know what else you would ask a guy to do. He had a great first day. I know he feels good about it."

For his part, Snider downplayed his Orioles' debut.

"A team win. That's all I'm looking for. However, we get it done," Snider said. "Whether it's me or the other 24 guys on this roster, it's going to be a long season, and we're going to expect guys to step up every night. So when we get those opportunities, it's nice to come through, but we've got a lot of baseball left."

Snider had an RBI single in the first that scored Alejandro De Aza and gave the Orioles their first lead of the 2015 season. He singled again in the fourth and then doubled in the eighth on what ended up being a bizarre play.

Steve Pearce, who had been on first base, tried to score and appeared to be out by about 30 feet. But instead of staying upright and being tagged out by catcher Rene Rivera, Pearce decided to slide at the last moment. He initially was ruled out, but after a two-minute, 34-second video review, the call was overturned.

While the review was ongoing, the Rays left the field, leaving Snider alone on second base. He tried to have a little fun with the wait.

"I sat Indian style for a second and then I figured I'd clean it up a little bit," Snider said.

Thanks to Pearce's slide and the overturned call, Snider had a multi-RBI game. A self-proclaimed food lover whose Twitter handle is lunchboxhero45, Snider said he was going to do something special for Pearce.

"I think I owe him a good steak now," he said.

What kind of steak?

"A ribeye for a RBI," Snider joked.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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