Orioles notes: Markakis lowers boom on Yankees

If anybody expected the Orioles to mail in their makeup game Thursday afternoon, right fielder Nick Markakis made it fairly clear how much they want to have an impact on the outcome of the American League East race.

Markakis leveled New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli in the seventh inning in an attempt to dislodge the ball and score the potential tying run. Cervelli held on to the ball, but he was holding on to the ground for a couple of minutes after the collision.

"That's the game," said Markakis, who was fine after the play. "No matter what game it is. I don't care if it's the last game of the season. That's the way you play. I had nowhere else to go."

The Yankees couldn't have been too pleased to have a key player put in harm's way like that, but it was a clean hit. Cervelli was OK, and he took extra pleasure in seeing Matt Wieters strike out to end the inning, pumping his fist all the way to the dugout like it was Game 6 of the World Series.

VandenHurk starts Saturday

Rick VandenHurk will make a spot start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre. Manager Buck Showalter wants an opportunity to fully evaluate the big right-hander, who has been working to take better advantage of his mid-90s velocity.

"It's a good opportunity for him to just kind of see where he is," Showalter said. "He looks the part. He has a good arm. He has a good makeup. You've got to remember he was a catcher, so you've got to look at his arm a little differently."

Davis dodges dubious distinction

Chris Davis was asked Thursday what he was thinking when he went to the plate Wednesday at Yankee Stadium with a chance to tie an Orioles record with six strikeouts in an extra-inning game.

"I was thinking, 'Don't strike out,'" the infielder said with a smile. "Obviously, you don't want to laugh or make jokes about something like that, but it was just at a point where you just think … what do I have to do? Obviously, we're in a close game, so it's one of those things where you just have to keep battling. What else can you do?"

Davis quickly went down 0-2 in the count, and seemed certain that he was going to tie Sam Horn for the Orioles' single-game strikeout mark. Yankees fans knew what was going on and were chanting, "We want six! We want six!" but he hit a sharp one-hopper to second base to keep his name out of the record book.

Gregg on Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on the verge of his 600th career save, which will be just icing on the cake for a certain Hall of Famer who already is the most prolific closer in postseason history. Though the Orioles don't like to spend a lot of time tipping their caps to the Yankees, closer Kevin Gregg had no problem giving Rivera, who has 598 saves, his due.

"He's obviously something special," Gregg said. "He's made his job look very easy. He's very consistent. A true professional. It's been fun to watch him work … watch him do those things, even though I don't like to be on the [other] side of it. He's something that you'll probably never see again."

So why is he so good, especially in big-game situations, at a very advanced stage in his career?

"He repeats his delivery," Gregg said. "He repeats his pitches. He never makes mistakes over the middle of the plate, or hardly ever makes mistakes over the middle of the plate, has a great idea of reading swings and when to pitch in at the right times, never panics. You never see him overthrow. You never see him fall off the mound funny. You can definitely tell he trusts his delivery and his approach. To me, that's the bottom line."

Around the horn

Righty Jason Berken (elbow soreness) threw a simulated game Thursday at the Orioles' facilities in Sarasota, Fla. There's still no word on when he'll rejoin the major league team. … Infielder Blake Davis, who was removed from the 40-man roster when Clay Rapada and Jeremy Accardo were called up Tuesday, has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.