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.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”