A thin Orioles infield was forced into another uncomfortable situation Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, with third baseman Danny Valencia scratched just before the game began with a hamstring problem that cropped up while he was running in the outfield. His replacement, Pedro Álvarez, hit two home runs in the team's 5-3 win.

"He was running before the game, about 12:50 [p.m.]," manager Buck Showalter said after the game. "12:52, [head athletic trainer Brian Ebel] walked in. I was just finishing getting dressed to go out, and said [Valencia] didn't think he'd be able to go.


"It was tight, his hamstring was real tight, and he said he had this similar before and tried to play with it and ended up really hurting it for an extended period of time. So, that was quite a scramble."

Valencia, who Showalter said doesn't seem to be a candidate for the disabled list, was playing at third because Opening Day starter Tim Beckham had surgery to repair a pair of tears in his groin area. All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop is also on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

With a pair of home runs from Pedro Álvarez, a backwards bullpen, and another reliable start from Kevin Gausman, the Orioles won 5-3 to take their first home series of the season Sunday.

Jace Peterson, acquired off waivers from the New York Yankees to fill a utility infield role last week, remained at second base, but the Orioles didn't have the other utility infielder on the roster — Luis Sardiñas — Sunday because of a back injury.

"Obviously, our options are limited," Showalter said.

So, the manager was left to put his one available non-catcher bench player — Álvarez — back at third base for the first time since 2016. While third base is his natural position, Álvarez was never a standout there and moved to first base with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015 after making 25 errors at third in 2014.

"Pete's got the most experience at third base, but you also see all the work he does before games and everything. He wants to be available for situations like that. It's hard to do, but if you had to pick one guy to do it, you'd pick Pete because he's, 'Fine, let's go, what's the team need? I'm ready.' Not any cautionary excuse. I think he looked at it as an opportunity to do something for the club that we were obviously in need of."

Álvarez said there wasn't much to learning he was playing so shortly before first pitch. He rarely starts against left-handed pitching at this point in his career, and even more rarely plays the field, but he prepared quickly.

"Honestly, it was fine," Álvarez said. "You've got to be ready for stuff like that to happen. Obviously, it doesn't happen very often. It was weird. I didn't skip a beat. I put on my jock strap, my cup and headed downstairs."

"There are guys who can do it and will do it but it's almost, like I told Pete, 'You're playing on house money here, let's go,' " Showalter said. "I didn't have to tell him that. When I finally got to the dugout after all the paperwork … Pete was bouncing around like a guy on his first day in Little League. He embraces it. A lot of people don't. That's why you pull for him."

The benefit to his inclusion at the plate came before anything else. Joey Rickard singled to open the second inning, and Álvarez worked the count full before hitting a fastball from Daniel Norris 432 feet into the Orioles bullpen for his fifth home run of the season. He also homered in the eighth inning to an insurance run. In between, Álvarez recorded a putout on all three chances he had at third base, and almost made an assist on a ball hit into the shift in right field.

"It's good to get him in there," starting pitcher Kevin Gausman said. "He's got a hot bat right now. I think it's tough what he was able to do today, going over to the hot corner. He had a lot of ground balls, too, and did a pretty good job of staying back on some and going to get other ones. When you can play first for us and play third and hit two homers every time he plays, it's good — it's a good combo."

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