Roberts 3-for-4 with RBI in victorious return

Roberts 3-for-4 with RBI in victorious return

Roberts 3-for-4 with RBI in victorious return
BALTIMORE -- Welcome back, Brian Roberts.

The 34-year-old Roberts, activated prior to Tuesday's game for his first Major League appearance in 13 months, received a standing ovation in his first at-bat at Camden Yards and he rewarded the effort with a sharp single to center field.

Then Roberts -- who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI -- and the rest of this spirited Orioles club gave the crowd of 15,618 good reason to stay on its feet. Powered by a trio of mammoth home runs, Baltimore bashed its way to an 8-6 win over the Pirates in support of the longest-tenured Oriole in his return, an emotionally-charged contest for a home dugout that was buzzing in the hours leading up to the first pitch.

And more than three hours later, they were still running, chasing down Roberts with childlike glee to plant a shaving cream pie on the veteran, who had gone 1,232 career games without the customary celebration and what seemed like a lifetime without a part in an Orioles win.

"I said I'll take a hundred of them," Roberts quipped to the pie's culprit, center fielder Adam Jones, who played a big hand in his return, going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer. "After I wiped it off, all the fans were cheering around me, I got a little emotional again. Talk about being a part of a team. I hadn't felt like that in a long time."

Roberts' voice cracked several times as he struggled to put the night's events into words. Playing in his first game since May 16, 2011, was a feat in itself, considering the dark stretches of months upon months in which Roberts questioned he would ever get back to a normal life, much less a baseball field. But there he was in his rightful spot at Camden Yards batting leadoff and playing second base, igniting the Orioles' offense like he had for years before a concussion derailed his season and threatened to take his career.

"I actually had bad dreams last night," Roberts admitted. "I had to wake up and cross some stuff out of my mind. I have no idea why. But I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't expecting three hits. I was just trying to go out there, and as cliché as it sounds, try to have good at-bats and try to do something that would help us win a game.

"I really didn't want to be part of coming in here and losing five or six in a row. That was probably my biggest fear. More than anything, I just wanted to try to be productive. It was definitely more than I could ask for. I'm just so grateful. I sometimes don't have words for what I've been through and where we are now."

His actions spoke loud enough, with Roberts' return inspiring his 24 teammates, all acutely aware that this game was more than simply one of 162.

"As I've gotten older, you kind of take in some moments," manager Buck Showalter said of the atmosphere surrounding Tuesday's game. "You feel like you've been through a lot of it with him, but nothing like what he's been through. You're lucky to be able to see that ... It was fun to watch. The guys kind of fed off of it because you know what it meant to him."

"He's the sparkplug," added Jones. "We've missed him dearly. [It's been a] long road and I know it's tremendous steps that he's made, and we welcome him with open arms. He's a big part of this team."

Mark Reynolds got things going with a two-out, two-run homer in the second inning and the suddenly surging again Jones followed suit three frames later. Jones, who fell a triple short of the cycle, clobbered Pirates starter Brad Lincoln's 2-0 pitch, sending it straight to left field for a solo homer that extended the Orioles' lead to three. After Chris Davis -- who connected for a two-run homer in the sixth -- flied out on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, Jones connected for his team-leading 18th homer of the season.

Jones' blast was enough to chase Lincoln, who was making his second start since being moved from the bullpen, out of the game after a season-high 87-pitch effort. Lincoln lasted 4 1/3 innings and was charged with four runs on nine hits and a walk. Davis' blast, which came off reliever Chris Resop, was part of a four-run sixth inning that included Roberts' first RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly.

"When you throw them in there, that's kind of why they call them hot zones," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the O's trio of long home runs. "We hit some hot zones tonight."

Oriole starter Wei-Yin Chen left after 6 1/3 innings to his own nice round of applause, as the 26-year-old lefty pitched at least six innings for the third time in four starts. Chen allowed a first-inning run, but settled in to a nice rhythm, retiring 11 of 12 after Jose Tabata's leadoff single in the second. Chen was charged with four runs on eight hits and two walks and replaced by Luis Ayala, who allowed an inherited runner to score, but followed that with a perfect eighth.

Tasked to protect a four-run lead, Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg surrendered a one-out, two-run homer to Neil Walker to bring on O's closer Jim Johnson for the final two outs. Johnson picked up his 19th save, ensuring Roberts' return would go out on a happy note.

"If I had a plan for my life I wouldn't have scripted this by any means," Roberts said. "I don't think anybody would script hard times in their life. We try to grow from them, learn from them and try to use them for good. As much as I would have liked to have played the last 175 games or 190 games, I'm hoping the next 190 will be better than I ever imagined."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.