Orioles-Red Sox Preview
By JON PALMIERI
(AP) -- Any team needs to get production from some unlikely sources to be successful. Steve Pearce is doing more than his share and then some for the Baltimore Orioles.
Now a mainstay in the lineup after fighting for his baseball life just a couple months ago, Pearce and the visiting Orioles look to match a season high with their fifth straight win Friday against the Boston Red Sox.
Pearce made the Orioles out of spring training before he was designated for assignment April 22 after getting only nine at-bats. He was claimed off waivers by Toronto but he elected to become a free agent and was promptly re-signed by Baltimore on April 29.
That move ranks among the best by any team this season.
With Chris Davis struggling, Pearce began to get more playing time - both at first base and in the outfield - and has hit his way into a regular role over the past month.
Pearce notched his first career four-hit game with two of the Orioles' six doubles in Thursday's 5-2 win over Texas and added two RBIs and two stolen bases. He's 31 for 81 (.383) in his last 22 games with six homers, 17 RBIs and nine doubles.
"We're relying on some people, and people are stepping up," Pearce said. "We're pitching, we're hitting. We're having timely hitting. We're finding ways to get it done."
Nick Hundley also contributed a pair of doubles for Baltimore (46-39), which swept the four-game series to move a season-best seven games over .500 and take over sole possession of first place in the AL East, one percentage point ahead of Toronto.
Pearce's stellar play has overshadowed teammate Adam Jones, who is batting .355 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 31 games since the start of June.
Jones is 15 for 38 (.395) against Boston this season.
The Red Sox (38-47) enter this series after getting swept in three straight at home by the last-place Chicago Cubs, including a 16-9 loss Wednesday. Boston had a season high-tying 16 hits after totaling one run in the previous two games.
In a disappointing season for his team, Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA) has been a bright spot and he'll try to continue his outstanding run Friday.
Since getting hit hard in a loss at Detroit on June 7, the left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in four starts. He outdueled Masahiro Tanaka in a 2-1 victory at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, allowing one unearned run and five hits in eight innings.
The Boston ace has been masterful during a three-start win streak at Fenway Park, yielding two earned runs and 16 hits over 21 innings with three walks and 22 strikeouts.
After going 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his first 17 starts against Baltimore, Lester has gone 1-4 with a 4.09 ERA in his past nine. He pitched well enough to win his most recent meeting, giving up two runs over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a 2-1 loss March 31.
Nelson Cruz is 11 for 24 (.458) with three homers against Lester, while Jones is 18 for 56 (.321) with five home runs and three doubles.
Miguel Gonzalez (4-5, 4.56) will try to get back on track for the Orioles against one of his favorite opponents.
In three starts since returning from the disabled list, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA. He's allowed 25 hits - five homers - and nine walks over 14 2-3 innings during that span and opposing hitters are batting .385 against him.
Gonzalez, though, has won all three of his starts versus Boston, posting a 3.38 ERA.
Updated July 4, 2014