Markakis and Arrieta Lead Orioles to Fourth Straight Win…

As we all know, Nick Markakis has had a period of struggles at the plate. There’s been speculation whether he has been hurt, struggling, having problems or otherwise; however, on Friday night, we all saw a glimpse of vintage Nick for the first time in a good, long while.

The Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-0, last night thanks to six RBIs – including a grand slam home run – by Nick Markakis, plus a lead-off home run by J.J. Hardy. They have won four straight games.

Baltimore also had a banner night on the mound by pitcher Jake Arrieta, as he threw seven scoreless innings – including five no-hit – to bring them within a game of .500, at 30-31. The pitching only allowed three hits on the night and sailed to an easy, solid win. He is now 8-3, and is one of the league-leaders in the American League with victories.

The Orioles attacked Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson – who has been one of the best young pitchers this year – early. Hardy’s homer in the first put Baltimore on the scoreboard, and in the next frame, Nick Markakis’ grand slam gave them a quick 5-0 lead.  Markakis drove in two more in the eighth inning, thanks to an opposite field double.

The Baltimore bullpen did its job over the last few innings, but beleaguered reliever Mike Gonzalez had some struggles in the ninth, but got over it. He amazingly loaded the bases in the ninth and had the boo-birds in force in stands at Camden Yards waiting for an implosion. However, he got through his issues and got Sean Rodriguez to whiff, ending the game.

Gonzalez had some issues with walking a few batters and control; however, his fastball seemed to be in the mid-90’s and was effective. I guess at this point, Gonzalez needs to get his confidence back – one outing at a time.

Again, the story of the night has to be Nick Markakis.

We all know Markakis has not resembled the steady player he has been in the past during the ’11 season, but he hit the ball with authority last night. In addition, the double he hit to left-center field was impressive and showed that his power has not been sapped at all.

If Markakis can start hitting as he did in the past, the Orioles will be better for it.

Friday night was only one game, so let’s hope Markakis can build upon it.