The Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees will square off in a decisive Game 5 of the American league Division Series on Friday, October 12, at Yankee Stadium.
The series has been dominated by pitching with both lineups struggling to score runs. The Orioles have managed to push the Yankees to the brink of elimination thanks to some clutch performances from an unexpected source.
Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth has been Baltimore's best player in the ALDS. The 30-year-old McLouth has made the most of his second chance, likely to the chagrin of fans in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Baltimore signed McLouth and assigned the veteran to Triple-A Norfolk after he was released early in the season by the Pittsburgh Pirates. McLouth went just 8-for-57 in 34 games for the Pirates before the team cut bait. He was a product of the Pirates' minor league system and put together several impressive seasons in Pittsburgh before he was dealt to the Atlanta Braves in 2009.
McLouth struggled in Atlanta. He hit just .229 in parts of three seasons with the Braves. McLouth's OPS during his time in Atlanta was .699, down from .853 in 2008 with Pittsburgh. No doubt humbled by his struggles, McLouth took the opportunity presented by the Orioles and made the best of it. He hit 10 home runs and stole five bases in 47 games with the Norfolk Tides of the International League before earning the call to Baltimore.
Baltimore had been searching for a solution in left field since Nolan Reimold went down with a neck injury in April. After unsuccessful auditions by Endy Chavez, Steve Pearce, and Xavier Avery, the Orioles gave McLouth a shot, and he took control of the left field position by playing splendid defense and showing speed on the bases. When Orioles leadoff hitter Nick Markakis was lost to a broken thumb in early September, Buck Showalter simply slid McLouth in to the top spot in the lineup.
McLouth has rewarded the Orioles with outstanding play. He's collected seven hits and a walk in 24 at-bats this postseason. McLouth has been a spark plug at the top of the order and Baltimore's most productive hitter with a double, home run, and five RBIs in five games. The left fielder has also played tremendous defense robbing the Yankees' Jayson Nix of extra bases in Game 4 with a leaping catch at the wall and firing a terrific throw to double catcher Russell Martin off of first base.
With Adam Jones and Matt Wieters struggling to produce in the middle of the order, the Orioles may need more heroics from McLouth to secure a Game 5 win and continue a remarkable season.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com.
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