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Despite large lead in AL East, Orioles say they're not looking ahead to playoffs yet

BaseballMajor League BaseballAndrew MillerBuck ShowalterChris DavisCincinnati RedsJoe Saunders

Even though the Orioles entered Wednesday night’s game against the Reds with a 9 1/2-game lead in the American League East and had a magic number to clinch the division of 17, manager Buck Showalter said he’s far from thinking about postseason strategy.

“Not now,” Showalter said. “We’re not there, not even in your mindset now. … Whenever it is, it’s not tonight, and it won’t be tomorrow night, and it won’t be the next night. And it won’t be the next day, either. I’ll tell you what, for the next nine days, it’s not a thought.”

Still, Showalter will use the expanded rosters to give rest to some starters. On Tuesday, Nick Markakis received a day off from defense and served as the team’s designated hitter. Adam Jones, who has started in all 138 games this season, made his fourth start at designated hitter Wednesday.

Jones had his left knee iced heavily before Wednesday’s game, and he appeared to be in pain after sliding into third base Tuesday.

“He’s had it wrapped for about three weeks, four weeks,” Showalter said. “He gets a lot of things treated. … I think it would benefit him, trying to move it around a little bit.”

Miller says he’s not limited after tweak

Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who tweaked a muscle in his left leg on his final pitch of Monday’s outing and limped off the field, said Wednesday that he is feeling better and considered himself available to pitch.

“I think all in all, I feel better today than yesterday, and it’s all as minimal as it could possibly be as anything,” Miller said. “I don’t think it will limit me in any aspect of the game. … Obviously for me, the big picture is to make myself available as the games get more and more important. I don’t know exactly what they would say about tonight, but if push came to shove, I would think I could pitch, and I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Miller, who didn’t pitch Tuesday, hasn’t thrown since the injury — which he called more of a cramp in his hamstring area — but he said the injury isn’t much of a concern for him. Miller missed 26 games to open the 2012 season with a left hamstring strain, but he said this injury isn’t comparable.

“I pulled it a few years back in Boston in spring training, and that didn’t take very long, and this isn’t even worth comparing the two,” Miller said. “They are so different. I don’t know how cautious I will be, but I’m going to make myself available. I want to pitch, and I want to be out there.”

Even though Miller has been the club’s lockdown late-inning left-hander since he joined the Orioles at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, the club has other left-handed relief options — including Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland and recent addition Joe Saunders — if it deems Miller needs more rest.

‘Guys still fear [Davis’] bat,’ Showalter says

Even though Chris Davis was still hitting below .200 heading into Wednesday’s game, Showalter said he’s seeing signs of the first baseman making some positive strides.

Through Tuesday, Davis was 5-for-14 in his last five games. He reached base 11 times in 21 plate appearances over that stretch, thanks to six walks (one intentional). And then he hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning Wednesday, his 25th of the season.

“That contact-to-damage thing, it makes guys still fear the bat,” Showalter said. “And Chris has been pretty selective considering how much he wants to get the average at a different level. He’s been in the middle of a lot of things lately.

“I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like he’s hit more line drives that the shift has caught this year than I remember. I bet he might lead our club with line drives caught.”

Around the horn

Right-hander Chris Tillman, who is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale against the Reds, is 4-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 15 home starts this season. His home ERA is the lowest single-season mark by an Orioles player in stadium history for a pitcher with at least 15 home starts. … The Orioles entered Wednesday with a 10-8 record in interleague play this season. Since 2012, they are 32-24 against the NL, the seventh-best record in that span. … Following Tuesday’s win, the Orioles were 62-14 when scoring four or more runs this season, including 22-1 since July 19.

eencina@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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BaseballMajor League BaseballAndrew MillerBuck ShowalterChris DavisCincinnati RedsJoe Saunders
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