ATLANTA -- Count Nick Markakis among the Braves who welcomed the opportunity to face a slew of left-handed starting pitchers after the All-Star break. The opportunity helped him keep his swing more disciplined and seemingly influenced his recent rare power surge against left-handers.Markakis highlighted his two-hit performance in Tuesday night's
ATLANTA -- Count Nick Markakis among the Braves who welcomed the opportunity to face a slew of left-handed starting pitchers after the All-Star break. The opportunity helped him keep his swing more disciplined and seemingly influenced his recent rare power surge against left-handers.
Markakis highlighted his two-hit performance in Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Mariners with a fourth-inning solo homer off Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales. This was his third home run within a span of 22 at-bats against southpaws dating back to Aug. 4, when he took Miami's Adam Conley deep.
"Nick has been good on lefties," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's one of those steady guys that it doesn't matter where they're coming at him from. He's a guy you want up there with guys in scoring position."
Actually, until a few weeks ago, Markakis had gone through nearly two full seasons of not being as consistent against left-handers as he had been throughout most of his career. And it had been five years since he had enjoyed anything that even remotely resembled his recent power surge against southpaws.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball hard," Markakis said. "It doesn't matter where the pitch is. I'm just going where the pitch is. My goal up there is to put a good swing on it and drive the ball, whether it's out of the ballpark or in the ballpark. I'm just trying to make good contact."
Before hitting that home run against Conley, Markakis had totaled just two home runs over 649 at-bats against lefties dating back to the start of the 2014 season. So, it's certainly noteworthy that he has now exceeded that total over 22 at-bats.
Markakis' three homers against left-handers this month also exceeds each of his season totals dating back to 2012, when he homered five times against southpaws. The seven homers he hit against lefties in 2007 stands as his career high.
"We haven't faced many lefties this year," Markakis said. "Through the course of my career, I've found if you're struggling, I usually like to face lefties because you don't pull off as much and you stay on the ball. It allows you to have better at-bats and see the ball a little better."
The Braves faced just eight left-handed starters through July 1. They faced 14 over the 45 games that followed.
Markakis exited June with just 62 plate appearances against left-handers. He hit .246/.302/.316 against them during this span. But in 44 plate appearances from July 1-Aug. 4, he seemed to start to find a groove as he hit .289/.386/.421.
This opportunity to see a slew of lefties in July and August has proven beneficial; Markakis has hit .423 (11-for-26) against southpaws this month. Much of the damage has been done this series against the Mariners, as he has gone 5-for-7 against them the past two games.
"The lefties we've been facing are good," Markakis said. "It's a good challenge. It keeps you honest. That's something you work on. Any time that front shoulder flies open, it's a bad thing. Lefties allow you to get back on that track and stay closed and not fly off pitches."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.