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.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.