Already exceeding expectations and hovering around the top of the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles received a huge boost from Brian Roberts' return after a 13-month absence.
His ability in the leadoff spot should only benefit Adam Jones - a scary thought for opponents.
Roberts will try to duplicate an impressive first game of the season and help the Orioles to a fourth straight win Wednesday night against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Baltimore had its regular second baseman and leadoff hitter in the lineup Tuesday night for the first time since May 16, 2011, the day Roberts sustained a severe concussion sliding into first base at Boston. Burdened with headaches and dizziness, Roberts' baseball future remained in doubt as he waited for the symptoms to subside.
After a lengthy rehabilitation that included a stint in the minor leagues, the two-time All-Star was in his usual spot atop the Orioles' order against the Pirates (32-28). Roberts wasted no time making an impact, singling in his first at-bat and going 3 for 4 with a sacrifice fly in an 8-6 win, Baltimore's third straight.
"I just wanted to try to be productive,'' Roberts said. "It was definitely more than I could ask for. I sometimes don't have words for what I've been through and where we are now. I'm humbled and grateful to have the opportunity.''
Jones tied a career high with four hits, including his 18th home run, and is 8 for 16 with two homers, four RBIs and five runs scored during the team's win streak. He's batting .424 (14 for 33) with three home runs and seven RBIs in seven interleague contests this season.
Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds also went deep as the Orioles (35-26) improved to 5-2 against the NL in 2012.
Casey McGehee and Neil Walker homered for Pittsburgh, which had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for only the fourth time in 16 contests.
Brian Matusz was scheduled to start this game for Baltimore but was scratched hours before the contest, having fouled a ball off his nose while bunting during batting practice Tuesday. The left-hander says he feels fine and could have pitched if needed, but was pushed back to Friday after a discussion with manager Buck Showalter.
Jake Arrieta will take the ball instead. Arrieta (2-8, 6.32 ERA) was demoted to the bullpen after giving up nine runs and 11 hits in four innings of a 9-6 loss to Philadelphia on Friday. He'll be throwing on four days' rest.
The right-hander has made one start against the Pirates, earning an 8-3 win with five innings of three-run ball June 20. He's 2-4 with an 8.08 ERA in eight career interleague starts.
Kevin Correia (2-5, 4.29) will try to help Pittsburgh avoid losing two in a row for the first time since May 22 and 23.
The right-hander went five innings and allowed three runs in a 5-4, 10-inning victory at Cincinnati on Thursday. He gave up solo homers to Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick, both on first pitches leading off an inning.
Correia beat the Orioles in his first matchup with them June 22, pitching six innings in a 5-4 win at PNC Park.
He is 5-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 14 career interleague starts.
Already missing Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis, the Orioles lost another outfielder Tuesday when Endy Chavez left in the sixth inning with a strained right hamstring.