Apr 28, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth (9) congratulated by teammates after scoring the sixth run for Baltimore against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Is McLouth the key to the Orioles’ offense?


Nate McLouth led off last night’s game with a solo home run to give the Baltimore Orioles a 1-0 lead in Seattle. The classic line that managers give to lead off guys who homer is great job…don’t ever do it again. Realistically you’ll take a run anyway you can get it, however you want your lead off guy to simply get on base. With an OBP of .452, that’s exactly what McLouth is doing. He seems to be a trend-setter for the Oriole offense, which is what you want from your lead off guy. The issue of course is that he doesn’t hit lefties well, as he’s hitting only .182. However given how often he’s getting on base and what he’s doing when he gets there, it might behoove Buck Showalter to continue putting him in the lineup regardless of whether they’re facing a southpaw.

Courtesy of Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle starter Brandon Maurer was wild from the get go. Following McLouth’s home run Manny Machado stroked a double down the left field line and subsequently scored on two wild pitches. Following a Markakis single and a Chris Davis walk, Matt Wieters provided a two-RBI double and the O’s handed starter Jason Hammel a 4-0 lead going to the last of the first. Hammel hung on for the win to push his record to 4-1, however that same problem of a starter going deep into a game popped up again. Hammel gave up a homer to Michael Morse in the sixth and then a base hit before Buck Showalter pulled him (before he could record an out) after 102 pitches.

The ironic thing is that aside from that, there were very few times where Hammel really seemed to struggle. Hammel’s line: 5 IP (plus two batters), 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K. There were a few guys on base here and there, but nothing fatal. Seattle hitters worked the count and fouled pitches offon Hammel, which drove up his pitch count. The ironic thing is that Oriole pitchers are taught to pitch-to-contact moreso than to look for strikeouts, and yet they can’t seem to get guys to put the ball in play without battles. I did find it interesting that Showalter used Tommy Hunter for a second consecutive night to get out of that sixth inning, however I presume that was done to save another reliever a day’s work.

Chris Dickerson, who started in right field last night (with Nick Markakis DHing), drove in two runs in the top of the sixth with an RBI-single, scoring J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty. Hardy turned around in the top of the seventh and drove in one more to push the score to 7-2, which ended up standing as the final. Going back to the bullpen for a moment, Troy Patton, Darren O’Day, and Brian Matusz combined to close out the final three innings of the game. Combined, they surrendered two hits and struck out five batters. Buck Showalter’s probably managed a tired bullpen about as well as anyone could have. A lot of that credit should also go to Tommy Hunter, who took one for the team on two consecutive days (working two innings on Monday and one inning last night to save other arms extra work).

Prior to last night’s game the Orioles designated Luis Exposito for assignment, and purchased catcher Chris Snyder‘s contract from triple-A Norfolk. They also optioned Zach Britton back to Norfolk and recalled Zach Clark. The word on the street is that Clark will act as bullpen support, which means that the Orioles will still need a starter for Saturday’s game in Anaheim. Unless he’s used in relief before then, I suppose that could certainly be Clark. However more realistically I suspect that Clark will be sent back to Norfolk and the Orioles will call up either Jair Jurrjens or Freddy Garcia.

Wei-Yin Chen will head to the mound in Seattle tonight, and be opposed by Aaron Harang. Chen of course is the only Oriole pitcher to go seven innings plus this year, having pitched eight innings Friday in Oakland. The Orioles would love to have a similar effort from him tonight. On the plus side, Harang has an ERA north of eleven for the season, and only lasted three innings after giving up five runs in his previous start. But everyday’s a new game; the good news is that Harang’s a righty, thus we should see McLouth in the lineup tonight.

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