By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) Cast aside and then welcomed back, Steve Pearce enjoyed a memorable performance in his return to the Orioles.
Pearce had three hits and two RBIs to help Baltimore beat the skidding Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 Thursday in a doubleheader opener.
Nick Markakis homered and No. 9 hitter Ryan Flaherty drove in two runs for the Orioles. Flaherty batted directly ahead of Pearce, who tied a career high for hits.
Pearce was designated for assignment by Baltimore on April 22 and released five days later. After turning down an offer from Toronto, the first baseman was re-signed Monday after Chris Davis went on the 15-day disabled list.
Pearce singled in the third, fifth and sixth innings and was solid in the field.
“Stevie gave us a real lift,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Made a couple nice plays at first, too. Stevie was a big contributor. Great example of players having an opportunity of deciding where they want to play. He wants to play (for us). We’re thankful that he did.”
The strange sequence of events was not lost on Showalter.
“I don’t know if you’ll ever see it again. Maybe in Baltimore,” the manager said.
Pedro Alvarez had two hits and an RBI for the Pirates, who stranded 13 and went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Pittsburgh has lost 14 of 18 after a 6-3 start, and the defeat ended the team’s nine-game road winning streak in interleague play.
“In all but two innings we had runners in scoring position and couldn’t bust the big hit,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
The single-admission doubleheader followed consecutive rainouts. The rain lingered long enough to delay the start of the fifth inning by 21 minutes.
Trailing 1-0 when the stoppage occurred, Baltimore regrouped during the break and sent nine batters to the plate in a three-run fifth. After a single, walk and an error loaded the bases against Charlie Morton (0-4), Pearce hit an RBI single and Flaherty grounded an opposite-field, two-run single to left field.
Pittsburgh got the first two runners on in the sixth and chased Bud Norris (2-2), but Ryan Webb retired Tony Sanchez and Jordy Mercer.
“We had Norris on the ropes for four of the first five innings and actually again in the sixth,” Hurdle noted. “Couldn’t push through on him.”
Pearce singled in a run in the sixth, and Markakis hit his first homer of the season in the seventh for a 5-1 lead.
Norris allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings despite giving up seven hits, walking one and hitting two batters.
“Early in the game, late in the game, you have to make big pitches,” Norris said. “Guys made the plays behind me. That was nice to see.”
Tommy Hunter got the last out with runners on second and third for his seventh save.
Morton started well but came unhinged after the rain delay and lost his fourth consecutive start. The right-hander permitted four runs, two earned, and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“I kept grooving fast balls to Steve Pearce and he kept putting good swings on them,” Morton lamented. “The ground ball to Flaherty to left field, the pitch was about a foot-and-a-half off the plate at his ankles.”
The Pirates got runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning before Norris struck out Gaby Sanchez.
Pittsburgh stranded a runner in scoring position in the second, and was poised to waste Jose Tabala’s leadoff triple in the third before Alvarez delivered a two-out RBI single.
The Pirates mounted several threats the rest of the way, none of which produced a run. Pinch-hitter Travis Snider hit a routine grounder in the eighth with runners at second and third and two outs.
NOTES: Baltimore won a challenge in the second inning. After umpires ruled Tony Sanchez was hit in the hand by a pitch, the call was overturned when a replay showed he fouled the ball off the knob of the bat. … The Orioles activated 3B Manny Machado (knee) from the 15-day disabled and optioned INF Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Norfolk. Machado was slated to make his season debut in Game 2. Also, LHP Troy Patton was scheduled to come off the suspended list in the second game. … The last time Pittsburgh played a doubleheader on the road was in July 2011, at Washington. … Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez (right knee inflammation) allowed three runs and four hits over 3 1-3 innings in a rehabilitation assignment for Double-A Altoona against Erie. “Wait and see how he feels tomorrow. Last time, he flared up the day after,” Hurdle said. … Baltimore’s rainout against Tampa Bay on April 15 was rescheduled as part of a split doubleheader on June 27. … Baltimore improved to 1-6 at home when the opposition scores first.
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