Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Somewhere within the chaos of the past week the Orioles won 4 of 5, and now, on the first Sunday in May, find themselves at .500 and only three games back of first place. Given the disarray and complications of the first month, it’s really a great position to be in.
Like most teams heading into May, the Orioles have quite a few things they need to improve on, especially if they want to overtake first place by June. One of the most important might be the lead-off position.
When the season began, it looked like Alejandro De Aza would be the veteran lead-off batter that could help solidify the lineup all season. However, he struggled through April, striking out 21 times in his first 64 ABs. That’s a lot of Ks for a player who hits 50 homers a year, let alone a players whose job it is to get on base.
Last night manager Buck Showalter hit third-baseman, Manny Machado at the top of the lineup. Machado would definitely fall into the category of ‘unconventional’ leadoff hitter, something we’ve seen Buck do in the past with J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis.
It can be successful, but it’s not an ideal position for Machado or the team. For Machado, he’s probably more comfortable and better-suited lower in the lineup where he can drove in runs. For the team, it’s most likely a stop-gap until a better candidate can step forward.
They may find an adequate candidate in outfielder, David Lough. Like De Aza this season, Lough looked like the everyday leadoff man coming into last season, but a poor April at the plate saw him losing playing time by May.
Lough’s reputation as a poor offensive player was earned during that first month in Baltimore, and has stuck with him over the past year. However, apart from his slow start last season, Lough has hit well when given the opportunity, including hitting over .300 in his last three months going back to last season.
His slow start last season could’ve just been the product of his first real consistent playing time at the major-league level, and his production since then could be evidence of his adjustment.
It’s obvious Lough is a plus-defender, and his speed makes him an asset on the base-paths. The question will always be his bat. However, with De Aza struggling Lough should get plenty of opportunities in the next few weeks. If he can continue his recent success, he could become a staple at the top of the lineup before long.