Markakis ignites O's rallies with three-hit effort
After strong showing in ALCS opener, leadoff man off the mark in 10th inning
By David Wilson
BALTIMORE -- Somehow, a 10th inning that saw the Orioles fall behind by three runs unfolded exactly the way they would have scripted it. The result was far from what they'd hoped -- an 8-6 loss to the Royals in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night -- but the stage was set for the O's to have a chance with their sparkplug at the plate.
With two runners on and two outs, Nick Markakis stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th as the potential winning run. He had already collected three hits in five at-bats, matching his hit total from the three-game AL Division Series, and one more would at least extend the game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"You want him in those spots for sure," O's catcher Nick Hundley said. "We love him in that situation. You get the winning run up in a game and you're behind and it's Nick Markakis, you're feeling pretty good about yourself."
The situation, however, diverted from the Orioles' script. Markakis hit a sharp ground ball to second. Omar Infante made an easy play to end the game. Despite a 3-for-6 ALCS debut for Markakis, the Orioles came up short.
Markakis was at the center, or more specifically the top, of nearly every rally the Orioles staged during Game 1. He scored Baltimore's first run in the third inning after a leadoff single and an RBI by Adam Jones. He kick-started the Orioles' three-run fifth with another leadoff single, although he didn't score a run after he was erased on Jones' groundout.
With another hit in the sixth inning -- the O's later scored their fifth and final run during the frame -- he raised his batting average for his first postseason up to .333.
"It doesn't surprise me. He's here," Orioles slugger Steve Pearce said, holding his arm parallel to the ground to illustrate Markakis' steadiness. "Here's the flat line. He's got ice water in his veins."
That was part of why it was so surprising that he couldn't deliver at the end. As Baltimore staged one last rally, Markakis had a chance to cap it. An extra-base hit could tie the game. A homer would win it.
Markakis watched three pitches on the outside of the plate. The fourth one was down and away, and he ripped it to the right side of the infield. It was well hit but no trouble for Infante to put the final touch on the Royals' victory.
"We were just hoping we get the tying run or go-ahead run up at the plate," Pearce said. "He's one of the guys that you can count on and he's going to battle. He hit it hard, he just put it in the dirt right at the guy."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.