Markakis sparks O's to comeback win
Second-year outfielder's five RBIs help topple Rangers
ARLINGTON -- Game by game and swing by swing, Nick Markakis is beginning to show all the promise that his first-round pedigree carries with it. Markakis, who went into Saturday's game with more RBIs than any second-year player in Baltimore's franchise history, homered and sprung for his first career five-RBI game in a seesaw 11-9 win over Texas.
Cal Ripken Jr. -- who finished with 102 RBIs in his 1983 MVP campaign -- is the only other Oriole to break the century mark in his second season. Markakis has made a huge leap from his rookie year, when he finished with 16 homers and 62 RBIs. After Saturday's outburst, Markakis leads the Orioles in home runs (21), RBIs (108) and runs scored (90).
"I'm still out here learning," he said. "I'm sure you ask veterans and they're still learning every day, too. You learn something new every day in this game. I'm trying my best to go out there and do that and make the adjustments."
Baltimore's right fielder -- the seventh overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft -- struck both early and late Saturday. Markakis clubbed a two-run homer into the second deck of the right-field grandstand in the first inning and helped Baltimore reclaim the lead in the eighth, when he drilled a two-run double that gave the Orioles a 10-8 lead.
In between those hits, he came through with an RBI single that helped get the Orioles back in the game. Markakis is one of three American League players who have played in every game this season, but he doesn't seem to be wearing down.
"For a guy that's 23 years old," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, "he doesn't chase a lot of bad balls, and he doesn't play outside of himself. He stays in his lane, so to speak. He gets big hits and he plays everyday."
The Orioles (68-88) needed his presence -- nestled in between Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada in the batting order -- badly Saturday night, when the Rangers worked overtime on offense. Texas (71-84) scored eight runs in the first four innings and led by as many as three runs, but Baltimore scored six runs in the seventh and eighth frames combined to reclaim control.
Baltimore's Radhames Liz made his first start in three weeks and showed the same form that got him banished from the rotation. Liz, a hard-throwing rookie, has often had problems repeating his delivery and locating anything other than his fastball. He got knocked out early on Friday, allowing 10 baserunners and six earned runs without escaping the third inning.
"I'm looking at my watch and going, 'Oh no,' " said Trembley of the early pace. "The starting pitching wasn't good tonight. ... I thought I was in a Saturday morning [Spring Training] B Game on the back field."
Markakis handed Liz a two-run lead with his blast to right field, but that advantage evaporated in the bottom of the first. Texas came back for three more runs in the bottom of the second, courtesy of a three-run blast by second baseman Ian Kinsler. Liz came back out for the third and faced six batters -- four of whom reached base -- before he was pulled.
He's made four starts now, and he's only pitched past the third inning in one of them. Liz said he doesn't feel overwhelmed and that he believes he belongs at the big league level -- even if the statistical evidence indicates otherwise.
"I think I was not controlling my fastball for a little bit, but I think everything [else] was OK," he said. "On the home run, I think it was a good pitch on the 3-2 count. It just happened. I think that's part of baseball."
"I would say there's room for improvement," said Trembley. "I'm an old school teacher, so he'd have a lot of red on his exam."
Baltimore trailed, 8-5, when the fifth inning started, and southpaw Kurt Birkins retired three straight hitters to keep the game moving. The Orioles scored two runs in the seventh -- one on a hit by Markakis, one on a sacrifice fly from Aubrey Huff -- to pull within one, and then right-hander Jim Hoey (2-4) spun a scoreless inning to help shift the scales.
That was all the daylight the Orioles needed, and they quickly got two runners on base against reliever Wes Littleton. Brian Roberts followed with a game-tying single, and a walk later, Markakis put Baltimore ahead with a double to left field. The road team scored one more run and then watched as its bullpen sealed the game with six more outs.
"As soon as somebody comes in and puts a zero on the board after we score, that light comes back on for them," Trembley said. "They get a second wind, so to speak, and they come back at you again. And that's everybody, and that's to their credit."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.