Manager Buck Showalter's new-look lineup for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Rays features second baseman Brian Roberts batting lead-off for just the second time this year and right fielder Nick Markakis batting seventh for the first time since 2007.
“It has a lot more to do with the team we’re playing than the situation of the game,” Showalter said.
Roberts hit first against Toronto on July 12 and went 0-for-4. With Rays left-hander David Price on the mound, Showalter wanted to space out the left-handed batters in the lineup. Markakis and first baseman Chris Davis, who is batting third, are the only two lefties in the lineup. Catcher Matt Wieters, batting fifth, joins Roberts as another switch-hitter.
“Brian’s led off before,” Showalter said. “It’s not his first time in his career obviously. I think he’s had some experience at it. It just fits tonight. It’ll probably be a little different tomorrow. It fits us tonight. With Price, we’re trying to space out the left-handers a little bit. I think he’ll be hitting somewhere else tomorrow.”
But because Roberts is at the top of lineup, the team isn’t expecting to see any more steals than usual. Roberts has only one stolen base attempt this season. It came in the third game of the season at Tampa Bay, and it was successful, but Roberts suffered the hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for almost three months.
“Even when I was running a lot back in the day, I didn’t premeditate that because I was hitting somewhere I had to steal bases or I don’t have to steal bases,” Roberts said. “We have such a different team now. … When you’re hitting in the leadoff spot in this lineup, you don’t want to risk giving up outs. The three or four or five guys behind you, if you’re on first, you’ve got a pretty chance at scoring anyway. I can’t say I’m going to get out there and start running like a maniac. It wouldn’t make sense. Situations dictate all that stuff. You play the game the way the situation dictates.”
*Right-hander Jason Hammel’s flat ground session went well. He’ll throw another one, and the plan is to throw off the mound Friday.
*Shortstop J.J. Hardy returned to the lineup after a two-day absence with back spasms. He said he feels no tightness or spasms. Today is also Hardy’s 31st birthday.
*Infielder Wilson Betemit is rehabbing with High-A Frederick on Monday, as Double-A Bowie is on the road. It’s his 13th rehab game.
*Today’s game is right-hander Chris Tillman’s third chance at his 15th win. He has two consecutive no-decisions. Tillman has won six consecutive home starts, the third-most in Orioles history behind Steve Stone (eight, 1980) and Mike Mussina (seven, 1995).
Designated hitter Danny Valencia is 7-for-10 lifetime against Price, the highest average of any batter with at least 10 at-bats against the Rays' starter.
*Catcher Matt Wieters is batting .332 against the Rays in 67 games since 2009, the highest average among players with at least 40 games against the team. His 13 homers against Tampa Bay in that span are the fifth most.
*The Orioles are averaging 5.4 runs per game against the Rays in 2013 compared to 3.1 runs per game in 2012.
*First baseman Chris Davis is the 10th player to drive in at least 115 runs for the Orioles in team history. His RBIs would have led 50 teams in Orioles history, and he’s on pace for 152 on the season, slightly ahead of Miguel Tejada’s record 150.