AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — It seems as if the Baltimore Orioles have been playing short-handed all season, so there wasn’t a great deal of concern when it came time to face the Texas Rangers without Manny Machado.
With Machado starting a five-game suspension on Monday night, Steve Pearce hit two of the Orioles’ four home runs off Joe Saunders and Baltimore got an outstanding pitching performance from Ubaldo Jimenez in a 7-1 victory.
During a season in which the Orioles have been forced to play extended stretches without injured starters Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy, Pearce has been as valuable as anyone on the team. Earlier this year, he stepped in for Davis. On this night, he played first base while Davis moved to third to cover for Machado, who was suspended for throwing his bat in a June 8 game against Oakland.
“When you lose somebody like that, you’ve got to find a way to do it,” Pearce said. “Davis was out there and did a great job. He might be doing that for the next couple days, so it’s definitely good to see guys step up.”
Pearce put Baltimore ahead to stay with a two-run drive in the first inning and connected with a man on in the fourth. It was his first two-homer game during a career that began in 2007.
Pearce was designated for assignment by Baltimore earlier this season, but returned after Davis got injured. He leads the team with a .327 batting average and has contributed nine homers and 25 RBIs.
“He had options to go somewhere else,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He wanted to play for the Baltimore Orioles and be here, and that meant a lot to us.”
Adam Jones and Hardy also homered for the Orioles, who hit a major league-leading 46 long balls in June. The four home runs provided Baltimore with a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning against Saunders, who came in 7-0 lifetime against the Orioles.
It was the first time Saunders yielded four homers in a game since June 30, 2009.
“The first home run to Pearce was a bad pitch, the other three were decent pitches,” he said. “I have to get the ball down and get more groundballs, for sure.”
Jimenez (3-8) allowed one run, none earned, and four hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings. The right-hander walked only one after issuing 30 free passes in his previous seven starts.
Signed to a four-year, $50 million contract in February, Jimenez was 0-4 in nine starts since May 8 and 0-6 with a 6.28 ERA in eight starts this season at Camden Yards.
This start, however, was a pleasure.
“It feels good, finally, to get the first win at home and finally being there for the team,” Jimenez said. “I know it’s been really tough for me in the first half, but I have a lot of confidence, a lot of faith, that things are going to change.”
Saunders (0-5) can only hope for a change, too. After giving up seven runs and nine hits in five innings, the left-hander is 0-8 over 12 starts since beating Houston last August.
“You try to handle it the best you can,” he said. “You try to turn it around and turn the page real quick.”
The Rangers’ 10th loss in 12 games left them 9-17 in June. Texas has dropped six straight on the road, its longest skid since an 0-6 streak in August 2010.
Baltimore pounced on Saunders immediately. Nick Markakis drew a leadoff walk and Pearce followed with a drive to left. After Saunders got the first out, Jones hit a shot into the left-field seats.
One inning later, Hardy made it 4-0 with his second home run of the season. The shortstop hit 25 last year.
It was 6-0 before Texas got a run in the fifth on a throwing error by Davis, who was playing third base for the first time since 2011. Davis drew Pearce off first base with a hurried throw while Leonys Martin scored from third with two outs.
Caleb Joseph delivered a sacrifice fly in the bottom half.
NOTES: The Rangers sent RHP Cory Burns to Tampa Bay on a waiver claim to make room for INF Adam Rosales, who was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. … Nick Martinez, who’s winless in his last six starts, starts for Texas on Tuesday night against T.J. McFarland, whose previous 14 appearances this season have been in relief. … Baltimore selected the contract of RHP Ramon Ramirez from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned reliever Evan Meek to the same club. Ramirez got the last three outs.
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