**Join us in the Orange Crush live chat at 7:00 as the Orioles welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to Baltimore for the first time ever in an interleague three-game set with Zach Britton taking the hill against Kyle Lohse**
BALTIMORE — Feeling refreshed after an off day and a series win over Cincinnati over the weekend, the Orioles welcome the struggling St. Louis Cardinals to town for the first time ever.
Still reeling from the loss of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals (41-38) have lost 12 of 15 games and have scored just 21 runs in six games since losing arguably the best hitter on the planet, 12 coming in their only win during that stretch.The pitching hasn’t helped either, as St. Louis has posted a major-league-worst 4.95 earned run average in the month of June.
On the other hand, the Orioles (35-40) found their bats heating up over the weekend, hitting nine home runs in the Reds series to give them 32 home runs in the month of June to lead the American League. The left side of the Baltimore infield has been especially potent this month, as shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Mark Reynolds make up the only left-side infield combination in baseball to have 10 or more homers each.
However, the pitching continues to be a concern as starters struggle to pitch deep into games. Rookie Zach Britton goes to the mound in the series opener seeking his sixth win of the season. The southpaw has struggled in his last five starts, posting a 5.14 ERA and a 1-3 record.
Britton will be opposed by Kyle Lohse, the former Twins pitcher who will make his fifth career start against the Orioles. The 32-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.39 ERA in 26 2/3 career innings against Baltimore, but has not faced the Orioles since 2006.
In injury news, Alfredo Simon will remain in Frederick on Tuesday night and a decision will be made Wednesday regarding whether to activate him from the 15-day disabled list or make another rehab appearance. Manager Buck Showalter said the club is “more likely than less likely” Simon is back for the second game against the Cardinals.
Simon will be viewed as a bullpen arm for the time being, though that could change given the uncertain standing of the starting rotation in recent weeks.
In his pregame comments to the media, Showalter expressed frustration with his inability to find at-bats for outfielder Nolan Reimold. The 27-year-old has not started since June 19 against Washington and has not appeared in a game since June 22 in Pittsburgh.
“It’s been a challenge, and we keep hoping that Luke [Scott] can get it going,” Showalter said. “We went through a period where there were a lot of left-handed pitchers, so it was pretty easy [getting him at-bats]. We’re going through a period now where it’s just the opposite. It’s something on my list of things that kind of bug me. That’s one of them.”
I also asked Showalter whether there was concern with Vladimir Guerrero’s lack of power and production at the cleanup position. It’s a subject about which I’ll be writing in more detail at WNST.net on Wednesday, but the Orioles manager is aware of Guerrero’s season-long power shortage and its impact on the rest of the lineup.
“We all know he’s not conventional, and you keep trying to trust that, if there’s such a thing as trusting unconventionality,” Showalter said. “That was one of the spots (where we’re struggling) I was talking about earlier — other than the average, really. In fact, his average, lifetime (.318), is higher than that.
“If we need to make an adjustment at some point, we will. We’ll see how it goes between now and the All-Star Break.”
Here are tonight’s starting lineups:
SS Ryan Theriot
RF Jon Jay
LF Matt Holliday
1B Lance Berkman
3B David Freese
CF Colby Rasmus
C Yadier Molina
DH Mark Hamilton
2B Nick Punto
SP Kyle Lohse (7-4, 2.91 ERA)
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
DH Vladimir Guerrero
C Matt Wieters
1B Derrek Lee
LF Luke Scott
3B Mark Reynolds
2B Robert Andino
SP Zach Britton (6-5, 3.19 ERA)
As we do for every weeknight home game, join us in the Orange Crush live chat beginning at 7:00. Talk about the game with us as an array of WNST.net personalities visit the cyber sports bar throughout the evening! Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates and analysis regarding the happenings from Oriole Park at Camden Yards!