ARLINGTON, Texas – With two on and two out in the sixth inning of a tied ballgame Wednesday, the Texas Rangers went to left-hander Aaron Poreda to face left-handed hitting Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, hoping that playing matchups would yield an important out.
Their plan backfired as Markakis slapped a ball the other way past the left side of the infield to drive in the game-winning run in the Orioles' 6-5 victory. It capped an impressive day for Markakis, who was 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBIs and two walks.
Markakis has always hit well against left-handed pitching – he boasts a career .290 average against lefties – but this season, he's had incredible success against them.
Markakis' .333 average against left-handed pitchers (he is 23-for-69) is the fourth-highest among left-handed hitters (minimum 40 at-bats) in the American League.
He trails only Boston's Brock Holt (17-for-44, .386), Kansas City's Nori Aoki (22-for-62, .355) and Texas' Shin-Soo Choo (21-for-62, .339).
"That's the thing about left-right," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You're thinking about bunting him, and then you see the left-hander in the bullpen. It doesn't really matter with Nick. There's so few left-handed hitters that can do that. He's one of three or four in baseball that left-right doesn't matter."
** Most uniformed personnel around the majors found out about the passing of former major league player coach and manager Don Zimmer during their games Wednesday night.
That was the case for Showalter, who was told about Zimmer's death while in the dugout.
"The interaction I had with Don -- and everybody who had it -- [was that] he always had time for you," Showalter said. "The thing a lot of people miss because he was such a character in the game was what a great baseball man he was. Very open to people about sharing his knowledge, always had time for you, smile on his face. But boy, what a competitor. What a competitor. It's sad. I didn't know about it until they came up and told me."
I had the opportunity to get to know Zimmer when I covered the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he was a special adviser. Zimmer wasn't at the ballpark every day, but when he was, everyone was drawn to him. He had a magnetic personality and was an amazing storyteller and one of our greatest living links to baseball's glory days. He will be greatly missed around the game.
** Also, today would have been former Orioles PR director Monica Barlow's 37th birthday. It's been just more than three months since Barlow passed away after a 4 1/2–year battle with lung cancer.
Since it is her birthday, it's a fitting time to mention that many Orioles players wear black and orange "K Cancer" T-shirts around the clubhouse. They've been doing it since the beginning of the season, and it is to not only keep her in their memory, but to extend Barlow's mission for improved lung cancer awareness and research.
The shirts are made by a company named 108 Stitches and were the idea of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jason Motte, who has created his own foundation to provide comfort and care where there is a need for those affected by all kinds of cancer.
Motte began selling the T-shirts and has partnered with one player from every major league team. Five dollars from the sale of each shirt will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and five dollars will go to the charity of the partner player's choice.
Motte teamed up with Markakis, and five dollars from every "K Cancer" Markakis shirt – which is in the Orioles' team colors – goes to Lungevity, an organization Barlow worked with closely after her diagnosis to spread awareness about lung cancer and raise money for lung cancer research.