(AP) — One of the questions surrounding the 2015 Baltimore Orioles is whether journeyman Steve Pearce can repeat last season’s surprising success.
A very small sample size so far says he may just be capable of exceeding it.
Another game at Tropicana Field is great news for Pearce and the Orioles, who seek to complete their second season-opening sweep there in five years Wednesday night.
Pearce was one of the unsung heroes of last season’s AL East championship team, batting .293 with 21 homers and 49 RBIs after he was released in April and resigned two days later by the
Orioles (2-0). Pearce, who never had more than 165 at-bats in a season before he had 338 in 2014, led the team in on-base percentage (.373), slugging (.556) and OPS (.930).
His value, though, extends beyond the batter’s box. He can play either corner outfield position, first base and also sees time at designated hitter.
Pearce was at first in Monday’s season opener with Chris Davis serving the final game of a 25-game suspension for a positive amphetamine test and homered and scored twice in Baltimore’s 6-2 victory. Davis returned as the DH Tuesday and Pearce made another start at first, going 2 for 4 with a two-run homer and two runs as the Orioles held on for a 6-5 win.
“We struck early,” Pearce told MLB’s official website. “We put some runs on the board. I’m glad we did that because we came to a halt. And they made a great comeback and it’s just another typical O’s-Rays game.”
Pearce, from nearby Lakeland, is 14 for 35 (.400) with five homers, three doubles and nine RBIs in last 11 games at Tropicana Field. He has hit eight of his 40 career homers against the Rays (0-2).
Manager Buck Showalter said Davis, who went 0 for 3 in his debut, will play first in the series finale, meaning Pearce could serve as DH.
Travis Snider is also being counted on to help fill the void created by the offseason departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, and so far, he’s been more than up to the task.
Snider has reached base in all but one of his eight plate appearances. He was 3 for 4 with two RBIs in the opener, and singled home a run in a four-run first inning Tuesday before walking in his final three at-bats.
The Orioles are in position to sweep a season-opening series at Tampa Bay, matching their accomplishment in 2011.
Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23 ERA) looks to pitch Baltimore to its ninth win in 12 games at Tropicana Field, where he is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts.
The right-hander won both of his decisions in three overall starts against the Rays in 2014 but allowed 19 hits – including four homers – and nine walks in 14 2-3 innings.
The Rays, who haven’t opened 0-3 since that sweep to Baltimore, got home runs from Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Forsythe on Tuesday. Four of Kiermaier’s 11 career home runs have come in this matchup.
Jake Odorizzi (11-13, 4.13) will try to reverse his fortunes against the Orioles.
In four career starts versus Baltimore – all last season – the right-hander has posted a 6.52 ERA. He only allowed six runs over 15 1-3 innings in the first three meetings but a 9-1 loss at Camden Yards on Aug. 25 caused his ERA to balloon. The right-hander surrendered four homers in that contest, yielding eight runs and 11 hits over four innings.
This is a very favorable matchup for Adam Jones, who went 8 for 12 with a home run against Odorizzi last season. Pearce, Alejandro De Aza and Delmon Young also took him deep.