O's hammer Rays, pound out 16 hits

Markakis homers in first major league start

Mora and Gibbons also go deep in victory

Orioles 16 Devil Rays 6

April 06, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Nick Markakis made the most anticipated first start for an Orioles prospect in well over a decade yesterday. He went 1-for-3, walking three times and collecting his first major league hit, a 402-foot home run to center field in the eighth inning.

On this night, he fit in with the Orioles' offense perfectly. The Orioles hammered Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching for 16 hits, three home runs and nine walks in a 16-6 victory over the Devil Rays before an announced crowd of 16,083 last night at a chilly Camden Yards.

In pounding the Devil Rays into submission for a second straight contest in front of the smallest crowd in Camden Yards history, the Orioles broke their string of futility in the season's second game. They had won six straight times on Opening Day, only to lose their second game in the previous five seasons.

Last night, even with starter Erik Bedard battling control problems that led to an early one-run deficit, the Orioles' offense jumped on Devil Rays' starter Seth McClung and let up long after Tampa Bay first-year manager Joe Maddon had summoned his porous bullpen. The Orioles scored five runs in the first inning, six more in the fourth and then four in the fifth .

Right fielder Jay Gibbons was 3-for-3 with four RBIs before being lifted in the sixth inning. He knocked in the Orioles' first two runs with a double to deep center over Tampa Bay's Damon Hollins. He added a 406-foot two-run home run to center in the fifth. Third baseman Melvin Mora, who decided to cut off contract talks with the Orioles earlier in the day, also connected for his second home run of the season in that in ning.

Second baseman Brian Roberts had two hits, including a three-run double in the fourth. First baseman Kevin Millar and designated hitter Javy Lopez added two RBIs each and catcher Ramon Hernandez was 2-for-2 with three RBIs. After getting just six hits in 15 spring games, Hernandez has reached base in eight of his first nine plate appearances this season with the only out he made being a long sacrifice fly last night in the fourth.

Center fielder Corey Patterson was the Orioles' lone starter without a hit. Markakis was hitless until the eighth inning, although the Orioles rookie was robbed of at least a single and an RBI in the fourth inning on a diving catch by Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford.

Markakis, 22, the club's first-round draft pick in 2003 who made the team because of a .358 average this spring and has probably become the most-ballyhooed Orioles rookie since Jeffrey Hammonds debuted in 1993, set the tone against McClung with his plate discipline. The Devil Rays starter logged just three innings, allowing five hits, seven earned runs and a career-high seven walks. He needed 95 pitches to get nine outs.

Markakis barely took the bat off his shoulder in his first three plate appearance, walking all three times and swinging at just one of the first 17 pitches he saw. His batting eye was the one of the reasons manager Sam Perlozzo decided to hit him in the No. 2 hole after talking for most of the spring about putting the outfielder in less-pressurized situations early.

"Well, protecting him doesn't necessarily mean hitting him ninth." Perlozzo said. "It might mean on Opening Day not starting him against a tough left-hander."

Perlozzo said before the game that Markakis will essentially be an everyday player.

"That's why he's here." the Orioles manager said.

Perlozzo was also interested in gauging Bedard's 2006 debut. The 27-year-old left-hander impressed Orioles officials this spring, picking up his tempo and being more aggressive in going after hitters.

"His tempo is a lot quicker." Perlozzo said. "He's not taking so long between pitches. He seems to be attacking hitters more, not nibbling as much. I think that's big for him. In the spring, he was good. We'll see if it computes to the season."

It didn't necessarily show last night. Bedard struggled with his control for much of his night, which lasted just five innings. He allowed eight hits, three earned runs and three walks, while striking out two. But when he was informed that his night was over after the fifth, the Orioles had a 15-3 lead and he was headed to his first victory.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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