The Baltimore Orioles have built up a huge cushion in the American League East, but the team can ill-afford to lose any more core players down the stretch as it prepares for the postseason.Steve Pearce, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this year, was taken out of Friday's game against Minnesota. According to Britt Ghiroli of Orioles.com, the versatile slugger strained his abdominal muscle:Ghiroli provided more details after the game:With Manny Machado out for the season following another knee operation and Chris Davis essentially being relegated to a pinch-hitting role thanks to a .684 OPS, Pearce's presence in the lineup was more important than ever.The 31-year-old veteran is having the best season of his career in 2014. He's hitting a robust .290/.355/.534 with 16 home runs in just 283 at-bats. He's been streaky, with Matthew Pouliot of Rotoworld.com noting on August 20 how the extra-base hits seem to come in bunches:With a seven-game lead over the New York Yankees entering Friday, it would take an epic collapse in September for Buck Showalter's team to miss playing in October. The important thing is to enter the second season with all of your core players ready to go.Pearce certainly wasn't someone with high expectations when the season started, but he's been as valuable as any position player on the team not named Nelson Cruz.If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. Click here to read full news..