Red-hot Markakis starting to look like old self

Veteran outfielder knocks two hits to extend hitting streak to 12 games

Red-hot Markakis starting to look like old self

ATLANTA -- With approximately two months remaining in the season, it appears the Braves were correct when they tabbed Nick Markakis as an offseason addition who would bring leadership to their clubhouse and also enhance his on-field production as he separated himself from the major neck surgery he underwent in December.

Though the Braves' hopes of making an unexpected run toward the postseason have evaporated over the past few weeks, Markakis has maintained his professional approach and showed his younger teammates the value of playing for pride. The veteran outfielder extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a pair of hits against Madison Bumgarner during Wednesday night's 6-1 loss to the Giants.

"If I came from the other side of the world and I sat down and talked to Nick or watched him without knowing what was going on, I would think we were leading the National League East by 10 games," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Because that's just the way he behaves every single day. He comes in, gets his work done, and gives it everything he has on the field."

The Braves have lost eight of their past 10 games and 18 of the 24 they have played since reaching the .500 mark on July 7. But instead of throwing in the towel for this season's final two months, Markakis seems intent on taking advantage of this time to prepare himself and his teammates for what they hope proves to be a much brighter future.

"He's excited about it, and he's made some comments to me, you know like, 'We need more people like this or these type of guys,'" Gonzalez said. "But he doesn't flinch one bit as far as record or anything like that."

Shortly after signing a four-year, $44 million deal with Atlanta in December, Markakis underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Instead of completing his normal offseason workouts, he was forced to endure a long rehab process that significantly limited his activities throughout most of Spring Training.

But Markakis has been out of the starting lineup for just two of this season's first 108 games and as the past few weeks have elapsed there have been some signs that he has been feeling stronger. The 31-year-old right fielder has hit his first two homers of the season since the All-Star break and produced a .441 slugging percentage over his past 25 games.

Wednesday, Markakis delivered a leadoff single in the first inning and added a double in the sixth inning. His 35 multi-hit games ranks third in the National League, trailing only Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt.

"He's a professional hitter," Braves corner infielder Chris Johnson said. "The guy knows how to hit and get on base. It doesn't matter who he faces."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.