ATLANTA -- Though they went for naught, the three doubles Braves right fielder Nick Markakis recorded during Sunday afternoon's 12-7 loss to the Cardinals provided further reason to believe that he has regained some of the strength he lacked as he played through his return from neck surgery last year.
"I feel a little bit quicker, and my bat speed feels a little bit better," Markakis said. "Hopefully, it just continues to progress and gets better as the season goes."
Markakis' three doubles matched the career high he had set when he notched a trio of two-baggers against the Tigers on July 14, 2012. The four doubles through this season's first five games equal the total he reached during the 16th game of the 2015 season.
Unfortunately for Markakis, his productive performance was squandered as the Cardinals tallied seven runs against Jim Johnson and Jose Ramirez after facing a one-run deficit with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth inning.
Before the bullpen unraveled, the Braves had gained a one-run lead courtesy of Markakis' sixth-inning RBI double off Kevin Siegrist. Markakis had also blemished Adam Wainwright's line with a pair of doubles -- a first-inning RBI double off the center-field wall and a fifth-inning leadoff double that positioned him to score on Hector Olivera's sacrifice fly.
"He's swinging the bat well," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's nice to see him get hot again."
Markakis was encouraged that each of his three doubles were hit to center field or the opposite way to left field. The veteran right fielder maintained consistency as he batted .296 while recovering from the Dec. 2014 neck surgery last year. But he tallied just three homers, recorded a .376 slugging percentage and did not possess the kind of power potential he displayed during Sunday's game, within which he also flew out to deep right field.
"It's good to feel I can have as much power as I want the opposite way again," Markakis said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.