Carroll County Times

Orioles batter Bucs

BALTIMORE - Interleague play has treated the Orioles well so far this season.

They've won seven of nine games against National League competition, and on Thursday they completed a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh with an offensive barrage. A season high in runs and hits lifted Baltimore past the Pirates 12-6 in front of 29,995 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles totaled 16 hits to go with their dozen runs, and they enjoyed their first interleague sweep since June 25-27, 2010, when they beat the Nationals in three straight. And, they feasted on Pirates pitching once again en route to their fifth straight victory that capped a 5-1 homestand vs. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Baltimore rapped out eight doubles, second most in a game in club history. Two players - catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Steve Pearce - had five RBIs apiece, marking the second time two players have done that in a game in Orioles history.

Baltimore (37-26) has five series sweeps in 2012; the team had five sweeps all of last season. And the club is tied for the majors' best record during interleague play. Last year, the Orioles went 7-11 against the NL.

Wieters went 4 for 5 with a pair of doubles Thursday. Mark Reynolds had four hits, two doubles and a solo home run, his fifth homer of the year. Pearce, the former Pirate who was in the Yankees' minor-league system a month ago, hit a three-run homer in the five-run fourth inning and a two-run double in the first. It was Pearce's first home run of the season.

"It felt good, I'll tell you that," Pearce said. "When everybody's hitting, it's contagious. Everybody wants to get to the plate. Tonight was nice."

Tommy Hunter (3-3) won for the first time since April 24 and retired the first 12 Pirates batters before Garrett Jones led of the fifth with a high pop-up that dropped in shallow left field. Hunter got two outs before catcher Rod Barajas ripped a three-run homer down the line in left to end the shutout as well. Still, he tossed six innings and gave up five runs on seven hits and struck out five, and manager Buck Showalter said the first four innings was the best stretch he'd seen out of Hunter so far this year.

"It sucks to say it was the best you've felt and turn around and see five runs on the board, but that's the way this game goes sometimes," Hunter said. "Just take those first four innings and take them into your next start."

Meanwhile, the Orioles handed Pirates starter Erik Bedard (4-7) his worst outing in more than four years. The former Baltimore pitcher lasted 3 1-3 innings and allowed seven earned runs on eight hits.

The Orioles tagged Bedard with four runs in the first inning. With two outs and two on, Wieters slapped an RBI single to left and Brian Roberts scored. Mark Reynolds followed with an RBI double in the right-field corner. Pearce then found the gap in right center and two more runs scored, giving Baltimore its most first-inning runs of the season.

The Orioles pounded out 10 extra-base hits Thursday and scored 27 runs in the three-game set against the Pirates, who came into town tied for first in the NL Central but left three games behind Cincinnati at 32-30.

"Our guys met the intensity that [Pittsburgh] had and tried to match what they were bringing in," Showalter said. "We were fortunate for three days not to see their better relievers ... but very quickly we have to turn to two of the better teams in the National League, Atlanta and the Mets, that are playing as good as anybody in baseball."

Baltimore is playing right with the top clubs, at least for now. Only the Yankees and Nationals are riding longer winning streaks.

"For us to get that momentum at home and take it on the road is huge," said first baseman Chris Davis, who stayed hot at the plate by reaching base three times and scoring three runs. "It's going to be a grind going to Atlanta and New York. If we can keep things rolling, we'll be all right."

NOTE: The Orioles placed outfielder Endy Chavez on the 15-day disabled list before Thursday's game and promoted Steve Tolleson to take his place on the roster. Showalter said Chavez, who injured his right hamstring during Tuesday's game against the Pirates, should be back by the end of the month. Tolleson returned to the team after his big performance Sunday - the utility man hit a three-run homer against Philadelphia's Cliff Lee that helped Orioles rally for a 5-4 extra-inning victory. Tolleson started in left field Thursday.