Orioles manager Buck Showalter considered giving Nick Markakis the afternoon off today, but changed his mind after considering how the sun was going to present challenges in the outfield.
Markakis is a plus defender. Showalter wanted him out there in unfavorable conditions, the kind that seemed to bother Oakland's outfielders all afternoon.
"I'm glad I talked myself out of that one," Showalter said.
Markakis doubled and homered to end two droughts in the Orioles' 10-3 victory over the Athletics at Camden Yards.
"You know he doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve, but you don't do the things he's done without having a real inner burn," Showalter said. "We all know what playing for the Orioles and playing for this city means to Nick. That's why it killed him last year, and killed us, him not being able to be there at the end.
"I know it means a lot to him for us to get there, and be a part of that. He has spoiled us with such a consistent level. I mean, you look out there and the guy's hitting close to .280. Still. A lot of people would sign up in blood for that.
"The way I look at it, and I've said it to you all before, that if Nick would go through some struggles, which he'd be the first to tell you, somebody's going to pay. Somebody's going to pay. It bodes well for the rest of the season."
The Orioles used aggressive baserunning in the early innings to build a comfortable lead. Runners took extra bases. putting themselves in scoring position for a season-high three sacrifice flies.
"Our guys, there are so many things today I was so proud of," Showalter said. "The energy, a lot of blood flow working there. Those guys really got after it early. A lot of aggressive baserunning. I think we picked up like 270 feet just running the bases well. We ran the bases real well today and took advantage of what might be there for us. That was key.
"The good thing about our guys is, you only take it when it's there and don't run into outs. The outs are precious in the major leagues and when you choose to sacrifice or you choose to attempt to steal or you attempt to go from first to third on something or stretch a double, it's a real momentum change when you give up an out. Those are all very educated guesses. It was calculated and it was smart. It was there. It might be close, but sometimes you get thrown out and it's the right move."
The Orioles' smart approach at the plate included a few key hits to the opposite field, including Adam Jones' RBI single in the first inning.
"We flared some of them, J.J. (Hardy) and Jonesy both," Showalter said. "Jonesy, people harp about him not walking, but one thing he's done a lot better this year is he's driving the ball the other way and taking that ball and doing some things with it. So it's a product of hard work and smarter hitting."
The Orioles took two of three from Oakland, which leads them in the wild card race. Showalter often downplays the significance of a series, but he conceded that it was important for the Orioles to win this one.
"Yeah, it was," he said. "I'll admit, coming in today, there's not many days when I go, 'We need to play well today and see if we can get a W.' This was one of those days. Plus, we got such great support the last three days. Well, the whole season. But the energy in the ballpark, our fans have been so supportive. Just got to keep grinding, especially this trip coming up.
"It meant a lot to us this homestand, all the way through, and really the whole season, the support we've gotten from our fans. Don't think the players don't feed off of that. When you're hitting inside and the first time you kind of walk out on the field, you pick up on the energy of the ballpark. That's why it was frustrating yesterday."
Next, the Orioles head out for a three-city road trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland. All of them playoff contenders. All of them important games.
Is it on now?
"It's been on," Showalter replied. "Trust me, it's been on."
"Some people look at the schedule and go, 'Hmm,' " Showalter added. "I haven't read it or listened to it because I choose not to. You can look at that as a positive or a negative. We're looking at it as a positive. If we're going to do this, it's right there, staring you in the face every night. Going into the season, it's about September. You grind like hell for February, April, May, June, July and August to have a chance to roll the dice the last five weeks, and that's where we are."