ANAHEIM, Calif. — Left fielder Nate McLouth is one of the Orioles' hottest hitters at the plate over the past two weeks, but it still hasn't been enough to earn everyday starts against left-handed pitching.
Over his past 10 games entering Thursday, the left-handed hitting McLouth had recorded a .432/.523/.676 batting line. He's reached safely in 17 of the 20 games he's started this season.
"When you see guys spitting on balls a couple inches off the plate….you can tell he's seeing the ball good and letting it travel," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's not missing pitches when he gets them. Do you expand what you are doing with him [in terms of playing time] or do you say this is part of the reason why he's doing so well? There's also, from a team standpoint, things you want to keep in the flow with everybody.
McLouth said he's trying to be selective but also aggressive at the plate.
"I don't necessarily feel like I'm going out there with the mindset of taking more pitches," McLouth said. "I think people sometimes mistake patience with taking pitches. I'm going up there ready to hit, but I think I've just been able to control my strike zone really welI and offer at pitches that I have the chance to put in play with some level of authority.
"For me, I think I'm able to control my strike zone better when I stay within myself and don't try to get too big and try to do things I shouldn't be trying to do. I've been pretty consistent at that. It's weird sometimes. It seems like adjustments can be so easy to make on paper or in your head, but it's hard to get them to translate into games sometimes. I don't want to go up there passive and all of a sudden it's 0-2 before you know it. It's a fine line of being aggressive but being under control as well."
The approach has worked for McLouth. He'd reached safely on 24 of his last 45 plate appearances entering Thursday, all but one hitting in the leadoff spot. In that span, he drew eight walks and scored 14 runs. He said hitting ahead of the meat of the Orioles order — Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters — has helped.
"The least of pitchers' worries is me, especially with the guys hitting behind me," McLouth said. "They probably don't even talk about me in their scouting meetings with the guys coming behind me. That's a nice, nice thing to have. I wouldn't want to pitch to Manny or Nick or Jonesy or Chris Davis or Wieters with guys on base."
While McLouth is hitting .352/.465/.493 against right-handed pitching, his is hitting just .182/.182/.455 in 11 plate appearances against lefties. For his career, he's a .260 hitter against right-handers but just a .222 hitter against left-handers.
"If you look at games played, there's also a part of it he gives you a really good weapon off the bench," Showalter said. "He can run, he can hit. If they bring in a left-hander, it's not the end of it. Guys change. You [can] look at his career off left-handed pitching, but guys change. Especially when they tell you it's something they can't do much."
McLouth hopes he will be able to prove his worth against left-handers.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with saying I want to be in the lineup every day, but Buck will put the team on the field that he thinks has the best chance to win that night," he said. "And everybody trusts that and everybody trusts in each other in this [clubhouse]. If I'm not in there, I have great faith that whoever is out there is going to get it done. Would I love it to be me every night? Absolutely, but I'm really working hard to get to that point, and I hope I do."
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