Hardy still slumping (McLouth still scorching, Davis homers)

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy popped up to end the second inning tonight and strand Chris Davis, who drew a walk off Oakland right-hander Jarrod Parker.

Hardy is in 2-for-20 and 4-for-33 slumps that have lowered his average to .177.

He did produce a hit in the 10th inning yesterday that almost won the game for the Orioles, but Rajai Davis threw out Manny Machado at the plate.

Hardy’s average dropped from .269 in 2011 to .238 last season, and manager Buck Showalter vowed to remove him from the second slot in the order.

The Athletics took a 2-0 lead in the second when Adam Jones misplayed Josh Donaldson’s liner to center field, the ball clanking off his glove. Donaldson was given a double, but that ball has got to be caught. Just like the one in New York.

Hardy was charged with an error earlier in the inning. Josh Reddick walked with two outs against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, and two unearned runs scored on Donaldson’s gift double.

Maybe you haven’t heard, but bad things happen when you walk guys, especially with two outs.

Machado committed the second error of the inning, and his first of the season, with a high throw after fielding Eric Sogard’s grounder. Hammel got a ground ball to minimize the damage, but the defensive follies raised his pitch count to 41.

Machado made a sensational diving stop to his right and threw out Chris Young earlier in the inning. He rolled his left wrist on the play and appeared to be hurting, but he’s still in the game.

Machado would prefer to play shortstop in the future, but he’s not complaining about the hot corner at the present time. And he’s been so good there, the temptation increases to just leave him there.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out once Hardy is no longer the shortstop.

Nate McLouth drew his 12th walk in the first inning, only two behind Oakland’s Coco Crisp for most in the American League by a leadoff hitter.

Down on the farm, Zach Clark (UMBC) allowed four hits over seven scoreless innings tonight, walking one and striking out seven in Triple-A Norfolk’s 2-0 win over Charlotte. Clark took left-hander Zach Britton’s turn.

Jairo Asencio picked up his sixth save, allowing two hits and striking out two while lowering his ERA to 1.13.

Former Oriole Josh Bell went 0-for-4 as Charlotte’s designated hitter and is batting .192. Another former Oriole, Steve Tolleson, is batting .197.

Update: Run-scoring singles by McLouth and Nick Markakis, and Jones’ RBI double, gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead in the third inning.

McLouth is now 7-for-14 with seven walks and six runs scored in his last six games. He stole his sixth base tonight.

Nice way for the Orioles to respond to that sloppy second inning.

Update II: McLouth reached base for a third time, leading off the fifth with a double and later scoring on Markakis’ sacrifice fly to increase the Orioles’ lead to 4-2.

Machado laid down a sacrifice bunt to move McLouth to third base.

Update III: Davis hit his eighth home run, and his second since April 11, to extend the lead to 5-2 in the sixth.

Davis went to the opposite field again. It’s really been a key to his fast start. He isn’t swinging from his heels and trying to pull every ball 500 feet. He’s got a smart approach at the plate.

Hardy is now 0-for-3 tonight, but he did advance Matt Wieters to third base in his last at-bat with a grounder to first.

Hammel’s at 80 pitches through the fifth. Will an Orioles starter finally go seven innings?

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