The night Nick Markakis showed up

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It probably just seems like it’s been years.

Nick Markakis hit a grand slam in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a double in the eighth inning as the Orioles beat the Rays 7-0 on Friday.

The outburst gave him as many RBI (six) as he had in his previous 27 games combined.

For those with short memories, Markakis actually was a run producer at one point.  As a 23-year-old sophomore in 2007, he hit 23 homers and drove in 112 runs.  Even in 2009, he finished with 101 RBI.

The homer totals, though, kept tumbling.  After he hit 23 in 2007, he fell off to 20 in 2008, 18 in 2009 and just 12 last year.  He entered Friday’s game with four in 59 games this season.

There were no injury explanations: apart from his rookie season in 2006, Markakis has averaged 160 games per year.  He kept hitting plenty of singles and doubles and finished with averages of .300, .306, .293 and .297 the last four years.

However, even Markakis’ average had plummeted this year.  He entered the game hitting .238.  His OBP, which stood at .370 last year, was a meager .298.  His slugging percentage was particularly horrid at .304.  He had just four doubles after hitting 45 each of the previous two years.

The Orioles have to be hoping that tonight marks a turning point for Markakis’ season.  He hit his first grand slam since 2009, and the six RBI were a new career high.  Maybe it doesn’t mean much: Markakis actually had two other games this season in which he both homered and doubled and nothing came of them.  But the Orioles need him badly if they’re going to score runs with Brian Roberts out.

Ron Gardenhire officially named the Tigers new manager

Associated Press
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The Tigers have officially named Ron Gardenhire as their next manager. Gardenhire has agreed to a three-year contract.

Gardenhire takes over for Brad Ausmus, who was let go after four seasons as Detroit’s manager. The Tigers went 64-98 this season, finishing tied for the worst record in the majors. Having traded away Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez, they’re poised for a major rebuild, so it’s best to look at Gardenhire as something of a caretaker manager.

As far as caretaker managers go, Gardenhire is not a terrible choice. He was the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. He managed the Twins from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039, winning the AL Central six times. He was AL Manager of the Year in 2010. He’ll do a fine job keeping the clubhouse drama free, dealing with the press and making sure the young players know the way to the team bus during road trips. There’s value in having an old hand doing those things with a team in as uncertain a position as the Tigers are these days.

Still, it’s a less-than-imaginative choice. If you have nothing to lose, and the Tigers really don’t, you’d think being somewhat more adventurous with your manager choice might be a way to try something new. As it is, the Tigers took a veteran-laden team in a win-now position and gave it to an unproven Brad Ausmus back in 2014. Now they’re playing it safe with a known quantity when the stakes are low.