ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a pretty good idea tonight that Chris Davis’ fly ball to left field in the third inning bounced off the foul pole. He could tell by the sound it made inside the mostly empty dome - unless it was left fielder David DeJesus slamming into the wall.
The sound turned out to be the one Showalter wanted all along, Davis’ grand slam keying a 7-5 victory over the Rays.
“I’m not sure if that was him or DeJesus,” Showalter said. “I was glad to see him get up. He hit that pretty hard. But I got a pretty good feel from Dominic (Chiti) and the bullpen, too. Plus the way things kind of echo in here, you can hear it. We have things in place to get it right.
“Last night, we are two inches away from Stevie (Pearce’s) ball hitting the line and tonight we grabbed some fouls. The baseball gods were kind to us tonight.”
Davis held at second and Adam Jones stopped at third until umpires reviewed the play and overturned the call.
“Obviously, in that situation with two strikes and bases loaded, I’m just trying to put the ball in play,” Davis said. “I’m trying to get something up over the plate. I felt like I had two good swings on two pitches. That was probably the worst of the three (Erik Bedard) threw me. It was just up and I got my barrel on it and I lucked out, to be honest with you.
“I was just hoping it would be fair and deep enough where we would be able to get at least one run in. When I saw Buck go out there, I figured he was challenging whether it hit off the pole or not. By that point, I really didn’t have a good view. I was trying not to run up Jonesy’s back.
“I’ll take the double, but at the same time, if I can get a grand slam, I’ll take that, too.”
A 5-0 lead was exactly what the Orioles needed after struggling so badly with runners in scoring position over the past few weeks.
“It was huge,” Davis said. “Any time you’re on the road, or any game to be honest with you, you try to get the lead early and put the pressure on them. We were able to do that. Obviously, they battled back but we continued to put runners on base and put runners across.”
Miguel Gonzalez lasted only five innings, but he improved to 4-4 in his first game back after going on the disabled list with a strained oblique. He surrendered back-to-back home runs to Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings in the bottom of the third.
“I just missed up a little bit, middle of the plate,” Gonzalez said. “Just got to execute those pitches better. Going out there 5-0, I never knew Sean would hit the first fastball. But just make better pitches next time.
“It was just about feeling out there and trying to make my pitches. They fouled off a lot of pitches, but we got it done. Our offense was great.”
Steve Pearce upped his average to .317 with a home run, double and two walks.
Pearce’s five home runs are a career high.
“I don’t think about all that,” he said. “I’ve been to the plate pretty often. It’s a lot easier to hit when you’re playing. In the past, I was playing more sporadic. This year, it’s more consistent and I know I have an idea of when I’m going to play.”
Pearce assumed he would start tonight against Bedard.
“I kind of have an idea I’m in the lineup, but you still don’t know,” he said. ‘But I prepare like I’m in the lineup.”
More consistent playing time has made life much easier for Pearce at the plate.
“It helps a lot,” he said. “You start to get a feel. The mound doesn’t look as close. I’ve been to the plate pretty often. You try to develop a comfort zone and it’s easier to play that way.”
Pearce batted second again tonight and could stay in that slot, with Manny Machado lowered to seventh. Showalter keeps saying that he wants to take advantage of Pearce’s hot bat.
“It’s the same wherever I am,” Pearce said. “At two, you get to the plate a little more often. That’s the only thing different to me.”
Pearce’s teammates appreciate his approach each day.
“Pearcey knows his role,” Davis said. “He’s always ready. He’s a guy who’s well-liked in the clubhouse. He prepares himself the right way and when his number’s been called, he’d been delivering. Hopefully, he can continue to swing the bat well and pick us up.”
Said Showalter: “You always know what you are going to get from him. He’s slashing and burning and getting after it and never has any trouble putting his head on the pillow. He’s a guy that you trust. Works hard to be good, whether it’s first base, left field, run the bases, hitting. He’s a professional and the type of guy you like to have around.”
Ryan Webb retired all five batters he faced after replacing Gonzalez and lowered his ERA to 2.64.
“With the six-man bullpen right now, I’m trying to stay away from Tommy (Hunter), so we have a multi-inning pitcher tomorrow with Mac (T.J. McFarland),” Showalter said. “Trying to do what it takes to win that game. Ryan had a couple days off, so I knew I could get him up twice. Try to pick the right spot. Hoping to get through six with Miguel, but he pretty much emptied the tank in the fifth.”
Showalter agreed that Gonzalez was a bit rusty in his first major league start since May 30.
“I thought his stuff was pretty crisp, but the command of it wasn’t what he was capable of,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it was a starting point and he can get back on the horse a little more consistently now.”