Showalter on leadoff hitters, Davis on an early home run binge (updated twice)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter will have another decision to make on Thursday regarding his lineup. Does he keep Nate McLouth in the leadoff spot against Tampa Bay right-hander Roberto Hernandez or does he go back to Nick Markakis?

“It’s based on pitchers, but also based on our guys’ skills, where they are in the season,” Showalter said earlier today. “A lot of it has to do with presenting as good of a challenge as we can not only for the starter, but for the bullpen. First thing we need to do is figure out a way to get into the bullpen, and obviously it’s not a very good bullpen to get into. They are very good.”

It’s always nice to have choices.

“We kind of created those options last year by need, but between Nate and Brian (Roberts) and Nicky, we’ve got multiple guys,” Showalter said. “We have to see where Nolan (Reimold) is going to fall. But we’ve got to take advantage of everybody’s skills.

“I want to try to get as many guys’ feet wet early in the season as I can. We’ll see what tomorrow’s lineup brings. You’ve got a whole different challenge if you look at the background with Hernandez/Carmona.”

It’s more of a challenge if the guy keeps changing his name.

The Orioles could be more of a threat to steal with McLouth in the lineup and leading off.

“It’s an attribute he brings,” Showalter said. “He’s one of our better baserunners. There’s a fine line in being aggressive and not being smart. He’s shown the ability to (have) controlled aggressiveness. He’s got a good feel for situations. I like the way he runs the bases, and it’s also nice to have a guy there that’s got some pop, especially with Brian hitting and Nolan hitting where they’re hitting.

“With that lineup, you’re only assured of guys hitting in certain spots the first time. Your four-hole hitter could lead off three times during a game. That’s not good usually if that happens.”

McLouth flied to center field in the first inning tonight against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson. Markakis and Adam Jones singled with two outs and Chris Davis hit his second three-run homer in two games.

Orioles 3, Rays 0.

Davis got ahead 3-0, fouled off two pitches and launched a 91 mph fastball.

Hellickson didn’t want to walk Davis and load the bases for Matt Wieters, who’s a career .371 hitter with three doubles, five homers, 14 RBIs and a 937 OPS in 31 career games at Tropicana Field.

Update: It’s still 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Chen allowed hits to four of the first eight batters, but the Orioles turned three double plays in three innings.

Chen struck out Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria while retiring the side in order in the fourth.

Davis doubled in the fourth inning. He must be getting tired.

I can remember when the guy hit home runs.

Update II: Davis is a triple shy of hitting for the cycle tonight.

Davis’ RBI single in the sixth inning increased the Orioles’ lead to 4-0. He has four RBIs tonight and seven in two games. He’s on pace to collect 567 RBIs this season, which, I’m told, would be a record.

The Orioles have scored 11 runs in this series - all of them with two outs.

Chen has allowed five hits in five scoreless innings, with no walks and four strikeouts.

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