With Nick Markakis providing a dependable bat and stellar defense, the Baltimore Orioles made runs to the playoffs in two of the previous three seasons.
Now they’re hoping they have what it takes to do it again with Markakis now in Atlanta.
As their one of their former cornerstones returns to Camden Yards for the first time, the Orioles seek their first three-game winning streak in nearly a month Monday night against the Braves.
Markakis, Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2003, emerged as one of the club’s top players early on during his nine-year stay. He then batted near the top of the lineup when the Orioles claimed an AL wild-card spot in 2012 and their first East title in 17 years last season.
The right fielder also won his second Gold Glove Award in 2014 before grabbing an opportunity to return to his roots by inking a four-year, $44 million deal with Atlanta in the offseason. He lived in Woodstock, Georgia, after moving there when he was 10 years old.
"Nick is having a good year, like everybody knew he would," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told MLB’s official website. "We know one thing, he can play the right field wall well. I’m sure they’ll use him in the advanced meeting."
Markakis, a career .288 hitter at Camden Yards, is batting .286 with the Braves (46-52) after going 1 for 5 in Sunday’s 3-2 win over St. Louis that snapped a season-high seven-game road skid. He’s hit well versus AL pitching this year, going 12 for 31 (.387) in nine interleague games.
The Orioles, meanwhile, have used eight different players in right field. Delmon Young, who has played a team-high 40 games there, was released earlier this month. Travis Snider has struggled of late with just two hits in 27 at-bats over his last 10 games.
Nolan Reimold, though, shined there Sunday with three hits and two RBIs in a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay. Baltimore (48-49) has totaled 10 runs and 17 hits in the last two games after hitting .175 and scoring nine times while losing its previous four.
After falling out of first place during a 5-15 stretch, the Orioles hope to take another step forward by winning three straight for the first time since a four-game run from June 25-28.
Atlanta’s Alex Wood struggled in an 11-3 loss at Colorado on July 12, but got back on track Tuesday by giving up three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-3 home win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The left-hander has never faced the Orioles, though Snider has gone 3 for 7 with a home run off Wood (7-6, 3.78 ERA) dating to his time with Pittsburgh.
Since allowing two runs over 11 1-3 innings in his first two starts, Kevin Gausman has surrendered 12 runs over 9 2-3 while dropping his last two. He yielded four runs over six in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at Yankee Stadium in his first outing following a two-week stint at Triple-A Norfolk.
Gausman (1-2, 5.18) has given up three first-inning runs in each of his last two starts. Atlanta, however, hasn’t scored in the first while batting .194 and totaling six runs in its last four games.
Freddie Freeman went 1 for 3 Sunday in his first start since June 17 due to a wrist injury, while rookie third baseman Adonis Garcia hit his first career home run.