Markakis joins elite company with doubles total

Right fielder is third in baseball history to hit 43 or more doubles in four straight seasons

September 21, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — With his two doubles in Monday's series-opening victory, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis put himself among impressive company.

Markakis become just the third player in baseball history to hit 43 or more doubles in four straight seasons. The other two — Joe Medwick (1935-1939) and Tris Speaker (1920-1923) — are in the Hall of Fame.

"I didn't have any idea about it, but after I was [made] aware of, it's pretty cool," said Markakis, who is the first player in Orioles history with four consecutive 40-double seasons. "Those are the type of things you work hard for. You go out there and play hard and play the game the right way. If you do that and play every day, good things like that happen."

Markakis, 26, is the 19th outfielder since 1900 with four or more seasons of 40 or more doubles, and his streak of four consecutive years with 40 or more doubles ties him for third-most among outfielders since 1900. That trails only Medwick (1933-1939), Harry Heilmann (1923-1927) and Speaker (1920-23).

"People say he's capable of hitting X number of home runs. He didn't hit as many this year, or whatever. You know, look what else. The doubles are part of that, too," manager Buck Showalter said. "It's impressive. Look at the company, and when you start using those terms, it makes you realize how remarkable it is. Nicky never gives at-bats away. I've been talking to [Robert] Andino, some of the young players, about not having emotional at-bats. Not letting one at-bat dictate your whole night, your whole week. Nicky's a good example of that, [and] it's not like he's 32 years old either."

Markakis, who entered Tuesday with 10 home runs, has 179 doubles over his past four seasons and 204 in his big league career.

"I think it's just putting the ball where they are not, putting the ball in the gaps and putting your head down and running and trying to get into second base," he said. "The biggest thing is to try and get into scoring position for your team to score some runs and win."

A split decision

The epiphany came not long after Alex Rodriguez sent Koji Uehara's four-seam fastball over the wall Friday, the three-run homer helping the New York Yankees to a come-from-behind win and sending the Orioles closer to his second blown save.

That was the latest reminder to Uehara to use his moving split-fingered fastball more. That's exactly what he has done in his past two outings, and the results have been impressive.

Uehara struck out the side in the 10th inning against the Yankees on Sunday, relying primarily on his splitter. He also leaned extensively on that pitch in closing out the Boston Red Sox on Monday, striking out two of the three hitters he faced and throwing eight of nine pitches for strikes. According to catcher Matt Wieters, four or five of those pitches were splitters, including the one he struck out J.D. Drew on.

"I've been conscious of it," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I have to throw [the splitter] in order to get outs."

Wieters said he has been calling the pitch more after hitters started to sit on Uehara's four-seam fastball.

"Last night, he was really throwing the ball good. He had good arm motion, and it really looked just like his fastball coming out the same," Wieters said before Tuesday's game. "It's been good all year, but we haven't had to use it. You try to keep as much hidden from the other team as long as you can. They were starting to adjust to his fastball, and that's when it is time to break out the splitter."

Lugo on mend

Infielder Julio Lugo arrived in the visiting clubhouse this afternoon with a wide smile on his face. It certainly beat his emotions during the homestand, when recurring headaches had the veteran questioning whether he would play again this season.

However, Lugo, who hasn't started a game since Sept. 4, was cleared by a neurologist in Baltimore on Monday and is available to Showalter off the Orioles' bench.

"I was worried a little bit because when it comes to the head, you never know," said Lugo, who was hit in the head by a pick-off throw Aug. 29 in Anaheim, Calif. "I went to the neurologist, and he told me that everything was fine. He told me I had a partially pinched nerve in my head and that's what was causing me to get pain from my left side. He said that it wasn't that big of a deal, [and] that was really good news for me."

Around the horn

Showalter hasn't set his rotation for this weekend's series in Toronto. It appears the most likely scenario is Chris Tillman starting Friday, Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday and Brian Matusz on Sunday. But Rick VandenHurk could also enter the mix. … Uehara is the seventh Japanese-born pitcher to record a double-digit save season. … Matusz finished the season 2-0 in five starts against the Red Sox, becoming the first rookie in 66 years to go undefeated in five starts in one season against Boston, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Markakis is experimenting with a different batting stance in which he has lowered his hands and keeps the bat resting on his shoulder. Markakis said it's more for comfort than any drastic change to his hitting mechanics. … Andino made his fourth start this season at third base.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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