ATLANTA – No matter how hard you think you know about baseball, no matter what the stats look like or even your own eyes, baseball has a habit of telling you to get away.
Baseball in its most surprising manner, told me to screw against the Phillies on Thursday in the Braves' # 8-5 comeback victory on the first day. And Nick Markakis, in his own quiet way, told me to shoot as well.
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First the backstory.
From When I saw the once powerful but now beating lefty batting fourth in Atlanta, I developed a bit of snark, which I translated more than once on Twitter.
No Herrera and Kingery in the Phillies lineup against the Braves. In the meantime, Nick Markakis beats the cleanup for Atlanta. For some reason. pic.twitter.com/CvLvdf2KqV
̵1; Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) March 29, 2018
But that was not so mean that I was logical and realistic. I mean, seriously: Nick Markakis has no room to clean up in any setup, right? Maybe 10 years ago, but not now. Not with his best years behind him and not with a team that wants to be competitive this season and, if all goes well, maybe even looking for a joker.
The hard truth: Either by counting statistics or advanced, there is no case that could be made for Markakis in four-hole. However, Brave manager Brian Snitker had him there on Thursday for the opening day, just as he had many times there last season.
It confuses every time. And, trust me, that's not an unusual feeling.
But, again, baseball does not care what each of us thinks about anything.
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In each of Markakis' first four disappointing episodes on Thursday, I patted my shoulder because I so smart about baseball was. I enjoyed the Twitter snark as the Braves fell back against the formidable Aaron Nola 5-0. The Braves looked dead, just five innings into the season, their offensive completely flat – and anchored by Nick Markakis in the cleanup.
Cleanup hitter Nick Markakis just hit a ball about 200 feet in the air, but only about three feet in front of the plate. Nick Masakis
– Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) March 29, 2018
But the weird one is that the Braves have cut off at the top and tied the game in the eighth round. Then, in the ninth with the victory run on the second and two outs, the Phillies Freddie Freeman were sent. They did that because the next hitter was, you guessed it, cleaning hacker Nick Markakis.
Now, after my tweet about Markakis & # 39; s first inning pop-up to the catcher, I almost tweeted that I would probably blackmail him in a walk-off homer. That's the sort of thing we baseball authors say when we think (again) that baseball is unpredictable and crazy. I did not tweet the tweet, but when Markakis came in ninth with a chance to be a hero, I tweeted that.
Cleaner Nick Markakis will win the game here, right?
– Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) March 29, 2018
That's what happened, of course.
#OpeningDay . Tie the ball game. Floor of the 9th
– Atlanta Braves (@Braves) March 29, 2018
Yes, this is cleanup hitter Nick Markakis, who has a walk-off Homer meets, against all odds, and against all logical predictions, and to fill me and all his other doubts with a big glass closes the hell.
Weil. Baseball. Not. Maintenance. What. We. Think.
"Get lost, Jason Foster." – Baseball
The Braves, however, think that Nick Markakis is fine.
"He's a guy I trust every night, he'll show up and give you everything he has," Snitker said of his right fielder. "He has the wars behind him and that makes him a pro who he is."
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Markakis is in his 13th season as Grandmaster leaguer. This season he had a career line of .288 / .358 / .422, more than 2,050 hits and 165 home runs. His career high in Homers is 23, and that was in 2007. He counts the last three seasons: 3, 13, 8 – not the stuff of cleanup. Or so goes the conventional baseball wisdom.
Baseball could not take care of this wisdom. The same goes for Markakis, who is known for his stoical approach to the game as well as for his reserved, probably intentionally inconspicuous post-game interviews.
The interview with Hero Markakis on Thursday went as expected.
What was his approach to this last At-Bat after the Phillies Freeman came running to him?
"I'm just doing my job," he said. "I'm not trying to do too much."
Was he extra hungry after going 0-for-4 until then?
"It just takes an at-bat, a pitch," he said. "That's the beauty of this game."
And no matter how much Markakis doubts, his teammates do not seem to share the feeling.
"Every time Nick is up, I feel like he's going to get a hit," Freeman said. "… If you have 2,000 hits, you want to rise in this situation."
Markakis may not even reach 10 homers this season, but that does not matter. He met a Thursday that gave his team a win – and showed once again we're never sure about baseball – and baseball always likes to remind us.
Just count that this is the best reason for this world.