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Braves' Markakis gets walk-off HR in 1st start since return from opt out

Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis went 0 for 1 in his 2020 MLB season debut Wednesday before he hit a walk-off homer in his first start Thursday in Atlanta. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis went 0 for 1 in his 2020 MLB season debut Wednesday before he hit a walk-off homer in his first start Thursday in Atlanta. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Nick Markakis didn't wait long to make an impact on the Atlanta Braves after his return this week following an initial decision to opt out due to the coronavirus pandemic. He hit a walk-off homer in his first start.

Markakis announced his decision to return to the club July 29, but made his first appearance Wednesday as a pinch hitter. He provided the play of the game in his first start to spark a 4-3 win against the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday at Truist Park in Atlanta.

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"You can pull [Markakis] off the couch at 50 years old and he's going to be able to hit," Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters.

"What a great way to come back."

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The Braves held a 3-1 lead before the Blue Jays rallied to tie the score with two runs in the seventh frame. Braves relief pitcher Mark Melancon then retired the Blue Jays in order to start the ninth frame. Marcell Ozuna lined out to lead off the bottom of the final inning. Markakis then stepped in to face Blue Jays reliever Wilmer Font.

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Font flung in a 76.3-mph curveball on his only offering to the Braves right fielder. Markakis dropped his bat through the zone and dug the pitch out of the dirt. His scooped shot sailed over the right field fence and into the second deck. The 392-foot solo blast had an exit velocity of 98 mph, according to Statcast.

"I wasn't up there trying to do too much and overswing," Markakis said. "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and put the barrel on the ball."

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Markakis went 1 for 4 with an RBI, a run scored and a strikeout in the win. He went 0 for 1 in his debut on Wednesday.

Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a 2-0 advantage with a two-run homer in the first inning of Thursday's affair.

Blue Jays slugger Bo Bichette then cut the Braves lead in half with a solo shot in the fourth frame. Adam Duvall pushed the lead back to two runs with an RBI single for the Braves in the bottom of the fourth inning before the Blue Jays tied the score in the seventh inning.

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Braves starter Touki Toussaint allowed four hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Blue Jays starter Nate Pearson allowed two hits and three runs in five innings.

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Freeman led the Braves at the plate with a 2-for-4 performance, which included two RBIs, a run scored and a strikeout. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. went 2 for 4 with a run scored for the Blue Jays.

The Braves (9-5) won two of three games against the Blue Jays (4-6) to claim the series. They will travel to face the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 p.m. EDT Friday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The Blue Jays face the Boston Red Sox at 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday at Fenway Park in Boston.

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