Baseball / Sports

The Baltimore Orioles' Steve Pearce (28) is tagged out by Texas Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez on an infield grounder by Nelson Cruz during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on Thursday, July 3, 2014. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/MCT)

Orioles complete 4-game sweep of Rangers, 5-2

BALTIMORE -- Life has been so charmed for the Orioles in the past few days that on Thursday they chased one of baseball's best pitchers with a weather report.

They followed that up with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers without hitting one longball--the Orioles' first homerless victory since April 26 – to secure a four-game sweep at Camden Yards for the first time since 2008.

The offense was paced by a career-best, four-hit effort from a guy they released in April, allowing the Orioles to improve to 4-0 while playing one hitter short due to Manny Machado's five-game suspension.

Weather reports all day pointed toward constant rain; the first pitch was delayed for 56 minutes.

In fact, the Rangers didn't receive word that they would be playing until about 7:30 p.m., and fearing that they would only have a brief window before the rain came pouring again, they scratched their ace, Yu Darvish, and saved him for Friday night against the New York Mets. Texas didn't want to waste Darvish for a game that may not last more than a few innings.

It, of course, didn't rain at all Thursday evening after the first pitch, and the bone-dry announced 24,535 enjoyed another Orioles win over the struggling Rangers (37-48).

The Orioles (46-39) are now seven games over .500 for the first time this season as they head to Fenway Park for a three-game series against the Red Sox that begins Friday afternoon.

Despite losing three of four to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles ended up 7-4 in the 11-game homestand against the Rangers, Rays and Chicago White Sox, three sub-.500 teams.

They won six of seven against the Rangers this year and swept Texas in a four-game series in Baltimore for the first time since August 2004. The Orioles hadn't registered a four-game sweep at home since 2008 against the Seattle Mariners and a four-game sweep anywhere since 2011 in Minnesota.

Perhaps it would have been different if Darvish (8-4, 2.42 ERA) had started instead of long reliever Scott Baker, who had a 5.80 ERA in 11 previous games. Baker, a former Minnesota Twins starter who sat out most of last season after elbow surgery, was 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in nine previous games against the Orioles. It was the longest active winning streak against the Orioles (Joe Saunders had been 7-0 against the Orioles before losing Monday).

And Baker (0-2) did his part for a while. He kept the Orioles off the board until the third when the unbelievably torrid Steve Pearce singled home Nick Hundley to break a scoreless tie. It was Pearce's second hit of the evening, giving him 12 multi-hit games in his last 22 contests.

Pearce kept it going in the fifth with a RBI double that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead and then singled and scored in the seventh. The four hits set a career high for Pearce, who is 23-for-59 (.390 average) with six homers and eight doubles in his last 15 games.

Pearce almost didn't get the chance for a RBI in the fifth. With Hundley on third – Hundley had doubled in Ryan Flaherty to tie the game at 2-2 – Baker threw a high fastball that traveled to the backstop and allowed Hundley to score. Initially ruled a wild pitch, the umpiring crew gathered and changed it to a foul ball. There was no official challenge and replays clearly showed the ball ricocheting off Pearce's bat.

So Hundley returned to third and Pearce got another opportunity--and he doubled into the left-center gap. Two batters later, Baker was pulled, allowing three runs on seven hits and one intentional walk in 4 2/3 innings.

The Orioles scored twice more in the seventh on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly and a Chris Davis RBI single. The club snapped its homer streak of 12 straight games and multiple-homer streak of six consecutive games. Since May 1, they had homered in all of their 33 victories before Thursday.

The extra runs cemented the win for starter Wei-Yin Chen (8-3). He matched Baker initially, throwing three scoreless before yielding his first run in the fourth. Adrian Beltre singled to lead off the inning, moved to third on Chris Gimenez's one-out double and then scored on a ground out by Carlos Pena. Chen limited the damage by getting a pop-up to end the inning.

The Rangers took the lead against Chen in the fifth on a solo homer by Shin-Soo Choo, who now has homered in each of the games in which he has faced Chen in his career.

It continued a disturbing trend for Chen, who has allowed seven homers in his past four games and 13 in his last nine after serving up just three longballs in his first eight starts of the season.

But the Orioles' lefty didn't make another mistake, allowing just six hits, two walks and two runs while striking out four in six innings. It was his first quality start since June 16 at Tampa Bay.

The Orioles bullpen again didn't give up a run, with closer Zach Britton picking up his 12th save in 14 chances with a scoreless ninth.

(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun

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