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Handed chances, Markakis can't cash in

NEW YORK -- Braves right fielder Nick Markakis can only hope that what he experienced during Friday night's 5-3 loss to the Mets proves to be one of those rarities that's inevitable if you spend an extended period at the Major League level.

Markakis grounded into two double plays, including a game-ender, while going hitless in three at-bats with the bases loaded.

"It was just some bad at-bats by me today, especially in some big situations," Markakis said. "I was second-guessing myself up there a couple times. You've got to kind of eliminate the mental aspect of it. I think I was thinking up there too much, and you get yourself into trouble when you do that."

Markakis has batted .294 with a .385 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage since moving into the No. 4 spot on May 15, but 61 games into the season, he remains homerless. Equally alarming are the struggles he has recently had in run-producing situations.

Since assuming cleanup duties to provide three-hole hitter Freddie Freeman some protection, Markakis has batted .250 with runners in scoring position. He has recorded just three hits in his past 17 at-bats in those situations.

Markakis is also now hitless in seven at-bats with the bases loaded this season.

"That's the way this game is sometimes," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But he's a professional, and if you keep getting him in those situations, he's going to split a gap."

When Freeman drew an eight-pitch walk off Jeurys Familia to load the bases with one out in the ninth, Markakis was in prime position to erase all that had gone wrong earlier in the evening. Instead he rolled over a 99-mph sinker and watched the Mets turn the game-ending double play.

"That last inning I was just looking for a good pitch," Markakis said. "I got a good pitch, and sometimes it's hard to hit 99. We gave it our best shot, and I failed."

Markakis had earlier ended a bases-loaded threat when he concluded Bartolo Colon's 30-pitch fifth inning with a groundout. Two innings later, after Alex Torres issued consecutive walks to load the bases with none out, Markakis grounded into the first of his rally-killing double plays, though he did plate a run in the process.

"I swung at a bad pitch against Torres with the bases loaded after him walking a couple guys," Markakis said. "I should have been looking for a ball over the plate. Instead I was trying to do too much. It came back to bite me today."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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