Pearce's 10th-inning single caps Garcia's stellar debut
Veteran right-hander loses no-hitter in seventh inning in first O's start
ANAHEIM -- It took the Orioles 10 innings to record their first hit with a runner in scoring position Saturday afternoon, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
After watching a four-run lead dissolve, Steve Pearce -- getting the start at first base due to an injury to Chris Davis -- stepped into the batter's box with two outs and the game on the line.
"I didn't want to over-swing there," said Pearce, who went 0-for-17 to start the season and entered Saturday hitting .167. "I didn't want to be the hero with the homer. I just wanted to get good wood on it. Something away, I could see the ball a little deep and hit the ball to the right side. I feel like I've been jumpy the last couple days."
By the time Pearce connected and drove Angels reliever Garrett Richards' pitch into right field, the only jumping going on was from the visiting dugout. Pearce's two-out hit, his third of the afternoon, scored Nolan Reimold from second base and gave the Orioles the decisive run in a 5-4 win in front of 32,136 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
"Its guys stepping up, that's what this team is about," said Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter, who threw a scoreless ninth inning. "It's about guys getting an opportunity and guys seizing it. You can go back to last year, you can go to this year. You can go back. This team is here and we are not going anywhere.
"It's going to be a different guy every day. [Catcher Chris] Snyder comes up with a big clutch throw in the ninth and Pearce in the 10th. What more can you ask for?"
Not much, if you're the Orioles, who managed to rescue Saturday's game despite going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Pearce's single and leaving eight men on base. The victory improves them to 6-4 on a tough three-city West Coast trip, as Pearce ensured starter Freddy Garcia's stellar start wouldn't go to waste.
"It spun out of control completely fast," Pearce said of the shift in momentum as the Angels, who were no-hit by Garcia through six innings, scored four late runs. "But we don't let that get us down. It seems like we do this every night. There's no easy wins for us. We find ways to win when it's close in those one or two run games. It's the Oriole way, that's what we always say."
With the scored tied at 4, Adam Jones delivered a leadoff 10th-inning single off Richards, and a bad toss from second baseman Brendan Harris helped prevent a double play on Reimold's grounder. Reimold -- who homered and drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly -- moved to second on J.J. Hardy's groundout before Pearce's clutch RBI.
"Stevie's a grinder and he plays the game like his makeup," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who has stuck by Pearce and some of the team's other struggling bottom-of-the-order hitters. "He's an easy guy to trust, because he doesn't give in."
Hunter turned in a similarly gritty performance, navigating through a scoreless ninth inning that started with catcher Chris Snyder erasing a leadoff walk by nabbing Mark Trumbo trying to steal second base. Hunter surrendered a two-out single to Howie Kendrick on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, but after he stole second, Hunter got Hank Conger to ground out to send the game into extras.
The Angels tied on the game against Orioles reliever Darren O'Day, who allowed a pair of runs in the eighth inning after stranding an inherited runner in the seventh. Arguably the Orioles' most consistent reliever, O'Day had allowed one earned run over his previous 14 games -- a 13 2/3 inning stretch -- but ran into some tough luck on Saturday.
The inning started with Conger's bizarre infield single, as he dropped a bunt down the third-base line against the defensive shift, and managed to fall down but still make it to first base uncontested. O'Day walked Scott Cousins on four straight pitches, and after J.B. Shuck bunted the runners over, the Angels closed the gap to one with Erick Aybar's RBI groundout. Mike Trout poked a ball just over first base to score Cousins and tie the game, robbing Garcia of a much-deserved win.
"I had been waiting for this start and this opportunity," said Garcia, who had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk before the game. "I wanted to make it happen, come here and throw strikes. This team, they're pretty good, and I was trying to make good pitches every inning. I was throwing a lot of sinkers early and started throwing my other stuff, changing speeds like I always do."
Garcia dominated the Angels over 6 2/3 innings, and didn't allow a hit through the game's first six frames in a stupendous effort that set the tone.
"He was a big difference in the ballgame," Showalter said of Garcia, who earned another turn in the Orioles rotation. "We're proud of him. He was the difference maker today, so that's a good debut."
Garcia, who entered the game with the highest active winning percentage against the Angels, is 16-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 29 career starts, including a 3.16 mark (17 games) in Anaheim. At just 65 pitches to start the seventh inning, Garcia had his no-hit bid broken up by Aybar's bloop single into center field. Two outs later, Trumbo ended any hope of a shutout with a two-run homer.
"At the end of the day, you have to tip your hat to him. He threw a hell of a game, but I'm not thinking about him," Angels starter Tommy Hanson said of Garcia. "I'm thinking about us. I was worried about myself and trying to keep runs off the board."
The Orioles offense was unable to deliver the knockout blow early on Hanson, despite putting some pressure on the right-hander from the get-go. Manny Machado got things going with a solo first-inning homer, and Hardy followed suit with one out into the second. Hanson, who went five innings, was unable to match Garcia's effort, although he worked his way out of several tough spots.
"That was frustrating for us, because we had some opportunities to open it up, but we weren't able to do it," Showalter said. "You've got to find a way sometimes. It doesn't always follow a script."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.