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The night Nick Markakis showed up

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 10: Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a grand slam in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 10, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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It probably just seems like it’s been years.

Nick Markakis hit a grand slam in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a double in the eighth inning as the Orioles beat the Rays 7-0 on Friday.

The outburst gave him as many RBI (six) as he had in his previous 27 games combined.

For those with short memories, Markakis actually was a run producer at one point. As a 23-year-old sophomore in 2007, he hit 23 homers and drove in 112 runs. Even in 2009, he finished with 101 RBI.

The homer totals, though, kept tumbling. After he hit 23 in 2007, he fell off to 20 in 2008, 18 in 2009 and just 12 last year. He entered Friday’s game with four in 59 games this season.

There were no injury explanations: apart from his rookie season in 2006, Markakis has averaged 160 games per year. He kept hitting plenty of singles and doubles and finished with averages of .300, .306, .293 and .297 the last four years.

However, even Markakis’ average had plummeted this year. He entered the game hitting .238. His OBP, which stood at .370 last year, was a meager .298. His slugging percentage was particularly horrid at .304. He had just four doubles after hitting 45 each of the previous two years.

The Orioles have to be hoping that tonight marks a turning point for Markakis’ season. He hit his first grand slam since 2009, and the six RBI were a new career high. Maybe it doesn’t mean much: Markakis actually had two other games this season in which he both homered and doubled and nothing came of them. But the Orioles need him badly if they’re going to score runs with Brian Roberts out.