Hot-hitting Markakis returns to leadoff spot in Braves order

CHICAGO – Hot-hitting Nick Markakis was moved back to the leadoff spot in the Braves lineup and Michael Bourn was dropped to eighth.

Bourn had two hits in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at San Diego, but that made him just 4-for-32 (.125) since being traded to the Braves, including 4-for-29 with two walks and eight strikeouts from the leadoff spot.

Markakis, who last batted atop the order on Aug. 5, had a team-high .304 average and .376 OBP in 112 at-bats from the leadoff spot before Thursday. Markakis went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk Wednesday to raise his average to .333 (37-for-111) in his past 27 games with nine extra-base hits and 15 RBIs.

“I talked to (Markakis) this morning — he doesn’t care where he hits,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the decision to move the right fielder back to the leadoff spot. “He just gives you the on-base percentage, gives you the good at-bats. And with (Freddie) Freeman back in the lineup it makes perfect sense, for me. But that’s the reason (for the move) – you put your best on-base guys up there, and put Bourny down at the bottom and it still gives you some speed down there.”

Markakis batted in the third spot in 11 consecutive games before Wednesday, when Freeman came off the 15-day disabled list and returned to his customary third spot in the order. Markakis hit fourth Wednesday with catcher A.J. Pierzynski out of the lineup, but Pierzynski was back in the cleanup spot Thursday.