I’m waiting for that moment when Steve Pearce turns on 99 mph Kelvin Herrera fastball and deposits it in the left field bleachers. It has to happen. The Orioles players will stream from the dugout like kids, joyously bounding for home, as Pearce jogs around the bases, his mind at ease because he finally guessed right.
In a postseason that has seen Mike Moustakas play the hero, belting four homers in six games when he hit 15 all season, and Eric Hosmer reminding everyone that bloop RBI singles do deserve celebratory dusting off of shoulders, then Pearce has to be next because his magical 2014 campaign can’t end with a .158/.273/.158 batting line that saw his best chance for an ALCS defining hit get robbed by Alex Gordon.
Much has been written about the well-traveled Pearce1, but here are the important things to know: Pearce hit 21 home runs this season, which was more than the 17 he’d hit in his previous 290 games in the Major Leagues since his various appearances since 2007. In any other season where he had 100+ at-bats, he’d never hit higher than .261/.362/.420 (last year with the O’s) where he hit .293/.373/.556 this season, and his 6.0 bWAR this season brought his career total up to 6.6. A magical 2014 indeed. This postseason was made for someone like Pearce.
He’s had his moments. In Game 2 he flew out weakly to left in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out, and he then struck out to end the game on a nasty Greg Holland slider in the dirt. Game 1 saw his opportunity to bring drive in Adam Jones with a gapper end in the mitt of a diving Alex Gordon. It’s like the Royals magical run and Pearce’s are of similar poles. Sigh. Isn’t there room enough for everyone?
At the moment, Pearce just looks confused. The Royals pitching staff has him guessing at location and pitch: he’s swung badly on enough changeups that he hasn’t been able to feast on the fastball, something he did with regularity in the regular season. During the season, Pearce hit .344 against pitches defined as hard (as per BrooksBaseball.net, using the PITCHf/x data) with 17 home runs. Now those fastballs are being fouled back or turned into harmless pop flies without any oomph behind it. To be sure cold, rainy days in Baltimore don’t help matters, but Adam Jones hasn’t suffered, nor has Gordon or Moustakas for that matter.
Facing the Royals staff isn’t easy. It’s almost unfair to go from the 96+ mph fastball of Yordano Ventura to bat against Herrera, Wade Davis, or Holland. For a fastball hitting machine like Pearce, he has to turn on one of them, right?
Down 0-2, the O’s can’t blame Pearce for their losses. You can look to the starting pitching that has allowed nine earned runs in 8 2/3 innings or the normally steady Darren O’Day suddenly serving up runs when he’d been so filthy throughout the regular season. It’s not like the O’s haven’t had their chances.
Game 3 is tonight, and with it is another opportunity for Pearce to shine. In one of the best postseasons in recent memory, with games seemingly decided in the last at-bat in every game, isn’t it his turn?
Baltimore fans sure hope so. So do I.
- Well traveled? How’s this for jet lag: 2012 saw him released by the Twins, signed by the Yankees, purchased by the O’s, selected off waivers by the Astros, purchased back by the Yankees, and then signed off the waivers by the O’s again. ↩