Taking a closer look at Casilla, Markakis and Machado

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has another decision to make tonight regarding his starter at second base.

Yamaico Navarro started three straight games before stepping aside last night for Alexi Casilla, who made two dazzling plays in the field and also singled and scored from first base on Nick Markakis’ double.

“Alexi put on a show at second base,” Showalter said afterward. “What a game he had. My gosh. He was impressive.”

Casilla is 0-for-2 against Phil Hughes, who starts tonight for the Yankees. Navarro struck out in his only at-bat. Not much of a separator there.

My guess is that Showalter, who puts a heavy emphasis on defense, will run Casilla back out there tonight.

Nick Markakis will be in right field, of course, but not atop the order. Nate McLouth will bat leadoff against a right-hander. Also, McLouth is 9-for-11 with five doubles and a home run against Hughes.

Markakis is 14-for-43 (.326) with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs against Hughes. Lately, he’s been hitting everyone.

Markakis is 9-for-24 with three doubles during his five-game hitting streak. He’s hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, batting .386 (17-for-44) with six doubles and seven RBIs. His average is up to .293.

Showalter heaped a lot of praise on Markakis last night without anyone bringing up the right fielder’s name. Showalter was especially impressed with the way Markakis delivered against CC Sabathia after avoiding a fastball that was tailing toward him.

Sabathia shattered Markakis’ thumb last September, and everyone at Camden Yards experienced flashbacks.

“Nick Markakis, I can’t tell you,” Showalter said before telling us. “Anyone who’s had a ball thrown at their coconut and broke their thumb by any pitcher, and then stick your nose back out there and get a base hit after it happens again tonight ... Nicky had some kind of game. I can’t tell you how many good things he did tonight. He was some kind of impressive.”

That includes how he avoided catching a fly ball in foul territory in the 10th inning that would have scored another run for the Yankees.

Manny Machado is 1-for-14 in his last three games and 2-for-19 in his last four since collecting four hits Wednesday night against the Padres. His average has dropped from .343 to .319.

Machado is 3-for-7 against Hughes.

Adam Jones is only 8-for-39 (.205) versus Hughes, but that includes two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.

Outfielder Henry Urrutia hasn’t played in Double-A Bowie’s last two games because of some soreness in his side. I’m told it’s nothing serious. We’ll see how long it keeps him out.

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