Markakis joins 400-double club, would’ve preferred a win

Nick Markakis, pictured in a game earlier this season, hit his 400th career double Friday to become just the eighth active player to reach that standard. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Nick Markakis joined a rather exclusive club Friday night when the Braves right fielder collected his 400th career double, becoming the eighth active player to reach that standard. But for a veteran known for his stoic demeanor and team-above-all-else attitude, it was hard to get excited about the personal accomplishment as it came during a 10-0 loss to the Cardinals.

“It would have been nice to have a bases-clearing double to go ahead three runs or something like that,” said Markakis, 33, whose double was a leadoff hit in the fourth inning with the Braves trailing 7-0. “But it was, I guess, cool. But we were also getting beat pretty bad right there, so I’d rather have come out with the victory. But I just try to be consistent, day in, day out, and stay within myself and not try to do too much.”

He averaged 36 doubles in his first 11 seasons, had at least 25 in all but one of those seasons, and racked up 38 doubles each of the past two seasons. Markakis had eight doubles through the Braves’ 27th game Friday, the one-sixth mark of the season.

The even-keel approach is so much a part of Markakis’ approach that Braves coaches and teammates have taken to call it the “Nick Markakis line” of temperament, never getting too excited or too down about anything, and trying one’s best to avoid extreme highs and lows during a 162-game season. There will be slumps and surges for almost every player and every team, but Markakis believes in not letting one’s own behavior be dictated by those peaks and valleys.

His nine seasons with the Baltimore Orioles were a model of consistency: Markakis hit between .284 and .306 in the first seven seasons; totaled at least 10 home runs nine consecutive seasons and between 12 and 20 homers in seven of those; and he had an OPS between .799 and .897 in seven of nine seasons.

Markakis’s home-run total dropped to three in his first season with the Braves in 2015, likely a direct result of having December 2014 neck surgery and not being permitted to do any of his usual rigorous offseason weight training and conditioning drills that winter. Markakis had 13 homers in his second season with the Braves in 2016, and by midseason he was back to being the type of hitter he’d been throughout his career with the Orioles.

In his 11 months before Saturday, a stretch of 132 games played by Markakis, he had a .285 average, .353 OBP and .783 OPS in 505 at-bats, with 32 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs and 72 RBIs.

“I like to ride on a flat line instead of up and down,” Markakis said. “Through the course of a season, don’t get wrong, you’re going to have your ups and downs. But the thing is, just be consistent. Stay on the field and contribute any way you can to help your team win. That’s basically what I stand by.”

It had been a tough week for the Braves, who before Saturday had lost four of their past five games since a four-game winning streak. For a guy who prides himself on consistency, Markakis is playing for a team that’s been one of baseball’s streakiest in the early part of the season.

“We’ve just got to keep plugging away,” he said. “We need to get on the same page at times – sometimes when we don’t pitch, we hit, and sometimes when we pitch — I don’t know, we’re kind of backwards a little bit. That’s how baseball is sometimes. You’ve just got to get on the same page. When everything’s clicking it’s good for everybody. When it’s not, it’s tough for anybody.”

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