A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Kris Medlen pitched yet another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings but left without a decision. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen pitched another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings, but he left without a decision. (AP photo)

(UPDATED 11:20 p.m.)

The problem with trying to project the Braves’ future is the struggle to assess the present. What are they?

Five months and 145 games after breaking spring training, they lack definition. They’re like a compass with a broken arrow that refuses to point north more than consecutive days. Or innings. Are they the team that went 18-8 in July, or the one that has been only Milwaukee-like since — well, except for the fact they just got swept by Milwaukee.

If we dare to look ahead to the postseason – and yes, that foolishly assumes no quicksand – what can the Braves hang their hat on right now? Other than pitcher Kris Medlen, who hasn’t lost a start since he was, like, 12, and closer Craig Kimbrel and maybe Martin Prado, can we be certain of anything? The lineup is full of slumps. The rotation is a row of question marks.

That may not mean anything. Sports isn’t a debate decided by logic and percentages. It’s theater without a script. The problem in Atlanta is there haven’t been a lot positives to draw from in Septembers and Octobers for several years now. So it’s understandable if the storyline of making it to a one-game wild card playoff isn’t stirring the masses.

“I would rather people take us lightly,” catcher David Ross said. “Philadelphia came in here last year and played us really good because they knew we were dangerous, and they swept us. Then the Cardinals beat them. They underestimated the Cardinals, in my opinion. I would love it if a team underestimated us. Let’s just let this thing play out.”

So are we assuming postseason disaster too quickly?

The Braves beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Friday night. It’s only one game. But doom-and-gloom was shelved for at least 24 hours.

Since everybody is thinking about the postseason anyway, it followed that Michael Bourn was asked about the playoff-like atmosphere at Turner Field.

“It can’t be too much more than that,” he said. “September is like playoff baseball, especially when you have two contenders playing each other. It was a good win. We’ll just take this, hope it carries into [Saturday] and see where it goes.”

Let’s not start playing the what-if-the-Braves-sweep game yet.

Not long ago, some thought this series might decide the National League East. But seemingly the most significant thing Friday was that it was another Chipper Jones commemorative poster night.

The Braves trailed the Nationals by only two games on Aug. 3. Even with this result, the spread is now 7½. The Braves’ wild card lead over Los Angeles is 7½ games (pending the Dodgers’ late game against St. Louis).  So the standings suggest the Braves’ playoff future is pretty much decided.

But manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t assuming anything. When asked when he might consider starting to rest players or set up his rotation for the postseason, Gonzalez laughed. “Oh geez. Until they put one of those weird letters — a y or an x or whatever they’re using [that indicates] you clinch, it’s hard to do that. I’m not quite there yet.”

Some scars don’t heal.

We’ll know soon enough whether this win was the start of a run or an aberration. But then, we’re still trying to figure out July (18-8) compared to the record since (23-19).

If this season morphs into something special, the thanks should start with Medlen. He has gone from long reliever to fill-in starter to sixth starter to what-the-hell-were-we-thinking-keeping-this-guy-in-the-bullpen savior.

He didn’t get the decision Friday. But he allowed one earned run and five hits in seven innings and had a career-high 13 strikeouts. (His sign of mortality: a home run by Bryce Harper in the sixth.) This also makes a franchise straight 20 straight games the Braves have won when Medlen has started. In nine starts this season, he  is 7-0 with a 0.86 ERA. He is 13-0 over his last 25 starts, dating back to 2009. For the season, he is 8-1 with a 1.62 ERA.

Again.

It’s mid-September.

The one player the Braves can count on is Kris Medlen.

Yep. Just how they drew it up in the spring.

The run-scoring drought continued, but it didn’t matter. Pinch hitter Tyer Pastornicky’s fielder’s choice in the ninth won it. With Andrelton Simmons on third, Pastornicky hit a grounder to deep short that was fielded by Ian Desmond, whose throw home was wild, allowing Simmons to score the winning run.

What the finish lacked in artistic value it made up for in drama.

“The goal is just to be playing good baseball in the home stretch,” Ross said, and the Braves did do that.

Until getting swept in Milwaukee, the Braves had the fourth best record in the majors (81-60). Going into the Washington series, they stood ninth overall but among five teams within 1½ games of each other. Conclusion: Even if the Braves aren’t doing much to distinguish themselves from the field, neither is almost every other team.

The question is whether this was a start.

By Jeff Schultz

156 comments Add your comment

SOS Braves

September 14th, 2012
9:59 pm

God freeman sux

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
10:04 pm

Kimbrel coming into a tie game in top of ninth.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
10:04 pm

That was one of the nicest popups you’ll see. Or not see. Did Fredi see that one?

kerryb

September 14th, 2012
10:04 pm

I like to see the stat on how many pop ups Dan Uggla has been out on this year. I bet it’s more than his strike outs.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
10:06 pm

Enter your comments here

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
10:11 pm

This makes it tough on Jeff to write a game story but we know he can talk about Medlen striking out so many batters. Then, it gets tougher. We was thinking we’d write about something positive so the pajama crowd doesn’t get mad. How many pop words can you come up with? Popup, Popeye, popcorn, pop gun, pop top, Uggla.

ER Steve

September 14th, 2012
10:13 pm

Time for a walk off!!!

ER Steve

September 14th, 2012
10:15 pm

Soda pop, lollipop, Kimbrel’s fastball

Bronkelliott

September 14th, 2012
10:17 pm

Medlen, Oflarety, Kimbrel are a mighty trio. The Braves hitters are a dime a dozen these days.

ButterMilk Tuesdays

September 14th, 2012
10:20 pm

Hey, Jeff, what’s your take on the Braves and their inability to hit the ball? O’Brien seems to be convinced that this has nothing to do with management and the coaching, and that the blame lies entirely on the players’ shoulders. Personally, I don’t believe that is the case at all, but my opinion and others that share it means little, apparently. I would like to hear what you have to say about it.

ER Steve

September 14th, 2012
10:20 pm

BRAVES WIN BABY!!!

ER Steve

September 14th, 2012
10:21 pm

What an awful throw, but we will take it!

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
10:22 pm

They win on an error! Whoa!

thomas smith

September 14th, 2012
10:22 pm

i am glad we won but if they had decided to turn two we still would be playing.

Disgusted

September 14th, 2012
10:24 pm

Funny thing is that the Nats defense was holding us back all game and it was on an E that we got it done.

But we will take it.

Another great one by Medlen, too bad he cannot get the W but its a win in my book.

And a shut the door night by Kimbrell again.

We needed this one.

Big Crimson 75

September 14th, 2012
10:25 pm

Great pitching tonight.
Kris Medlin has saved the Braves this season.
Great story.
Kimbrell is unstoppable.

ButterMilk Tuesdays

September 14th, 2012
10:25 pm

@thomas smith: You don’t go for two there with a speedy runner at the plate, you come home with it. Desmond would have had Simmons if he had made a good throw.

Phils fan

September 14th, 2012
10:25 pm

Braves win!!!! hellava ball game

Disgusted

September 14th, 2012
10:26 pm

The Braves did struggle with RISP again but the Nats defense did have something to do with it.

In this RISP slump the Braves have hit into some good defenseive plays.

Not that its an excuse but they are not that bad with RISP.

Hey, we got one, that is the bottom line.

Big Crimson 75

September 14th, 2012
10:27 pm

Kerryb — it’s unfortunately too close to call!!
Uggla is pure garbage.

September Baseball

September 14th, 2012
10:29 pm

“Are we assuming postseason disaster too quickly?”

not at all. This not scoring runs things hasn’t just happened, it’s been happening for a few weeks … that implies trend. And with no end to it in sight, if they make the playoffs (that’s still up in the air), taking this low/no scoring offense into the playoffs will provide the Braves will an early exit and that’s guaranteed

Disgusted

September 14th, 2012
10:30 pm

I am looking forward to seeing what kind of total numbers Meds will put up next yr.

He is around the age that Maddux was when Maddux was pretty much unbeatable. Mad Dog was nearly unhittable in those 1994 and 95 yrs, the strike robbed him of two 20 plus W yrs.

Maddux from 1992 to 95 was as good as it could get. He was still great after, but was extra special those 4 yrs.

thomas smith

September 14th, 2012
10:36 pm

@ buttermilk tuesdays pastornicky is not a fast runner .they would have got 2

ButterMilk Tuesdays

September 14th, 2012
10:38 pm

@September Baseball: Agreed, this isn’t just a simple case of “tough hitter’s luck” with runners in scoring position.

Skeezix

September 14th, 2012
10:38 pm

Medlen has simply been awesome! My wife rarely will sit and watch a game all the way through. Yet, even she was amazed at that pitching performance. Keep in mind that the Nats are a tough line up to hold to one run. Still can’t believe that Wren and Fredi kept Meds on ice all that time “stretching out” in Gwinnett and cooling his heels in the pen. How many more wins would we have if either of them had a better ability to recognize real talent?

thomas smith

September 14th, 2012
10:39 pm

i believe we might be ahead of the nats if medlen had been starting all year and he might have won the cy young. who made that bonehead decision to put him in the bullpen?

Skeezix

September 14th, 2012
10:40 pm

And Kimbrel is simply great! Always fun to watch.

Phils fan

September 14th, 2012
10:41 pm

as a neutral fan with wild hopes, i don’t see any reason why the braves couldn’t beat the nationals in the post season. bps are even and the nats have no post season exp.

ButterMilk Tuesdays

September 14th, 2012
10:43 pm

@thomas smith: They were playing in, so by the time Espinosa gets to 2B, the play would have been over. Desmond did the right thing, he just botched it up.

Big Crimson 75

September 14th, 2012
10:53 pm

Medlin & Beachy(when he returns) can match any duo in the NL.
No one can touch the back end of our pen.

In J.S.'s Office

September 14th, 2012
11:01 pm

J.S.: Frankly Frank, our offense sucks. What do you plan to do about it? Our hitters just can’t perform with RISP.

Frank: Uncle John, is that the same as RSVP?

J.S.: Geeezzzzzzzzzzz

ButterMilk Tuesdays

September 14th, 2012
11:18 pm

@In J.S.’s Office: Based on a true story.

Ol'JacketFan

September 15th, 2012
12:21 am

@Thomas Smith, Medlen and Strasberg had their TJ surgery roughly the same time. Strasberg is sitting and Medlen is dealing. Still think the Braves don’t know what their doing?

Bravesfan54

September 15th, 2012
12:31 am

On the “play-in” I would go with Huddy – if, this is the final year on his contract (I hate the “walk year” phrase as much as I hate “lights out”). We want to sign Huddy to a good contract and “dissing” him in favor of a new phenominal (note: did not abbreviate) pitcher is not what this team needs to do. The psychological setting (i.e. – ego) is important. The players won’t tell you they feel “unbeatable” with Med (truth be told, they are), but Huddy is old-school and has earned his stripes – and you can’t humiliate him in for a one-game outcome when you will need him in the future (note: avoided saying “…going forward”). Braves have always kept a decent perspective, so I predict Huddy will pitch the play-in. Could be wrong, though.
(Sorry for my lubricated rant about “Atlanta doesn’t deserve the Braves” rant from a few days ago…it was sincere, and, best I remember it, I wouldn’t change anything…other than I know I sounded so arrogant…so “Eric Severied”, so “Huntley/Brinkley”, so… anyhow, Braves’ fandom, I care about this team, and it doesn’t matter who I saw playing the game so many years ago…and, FWIW, there are many more knowledgeable participants on this blog. I know this – indulgence is sought – as Marvin would say – “can I get a witness?”

Ryder

September 15th, 2012
12:47 am

Can Medlen be placed in the 4 spot and Simmons in the 3 when Kris pitches? It may be the only way for Atlanta to score runs in September. Never have I seen a team get so tight when the stakes get higher.

Great job of pitching by the Braves, which I think is stronger than people give it credit for, but seriously, do you see other contenders get tight with their hitting when the calendar turns to September? Must be something in the South.

Elvis in Memphis

September 15th, 2012
3:59 am

I think I enjoy reading these blawgs so I can read what Sonny Clusters is saying.

Stinger2

September 15th, 2012
6:42 am

Clusters: Your comments about Chipper`s glove being bronzed and about Uggla and the popups were very negative and ugly. At least you did not say anything bad about Fredi last night (unless I missed it). Thank you for that oversight. Go Chipper! Go Danny! Go Fredi! GO BRAVES

puff

September 15th, 2012
7:37 am

If anyone starts the play-in game other than Medlin it would make me think of 1919.

BTW, last night’s game winning run scored on an E6 with a drawn in infield, not a single to deep short.

Speaking of McClouth, he’s helping the Orioles a lot. Anybody can get hot for a spell, it would appear.

Benny

September 15th, 2012
7:53 am

Perhaps Frank Wren should take a cue from Billy Beane, the A’s GM. The Moneyball sabermetrics(?) method of evaluating players. Drafting college players, getting real value for the money. Wren’s way of paying guys, overspending, wasting dollars on busts…ain’t working.

Tami

September 15th, 2012
8:25 am

I agree with Kerryb….it’s possible, though, that we’re looking at a combo of Glavine/Maddux in one Kris Medlen. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on this guy at this point in his young career by throwing up too many comparisons between him and two legendary pitchers, mind you. But he has the finesse of Maddux with the power and the tricky pitches of Glavine. I don’t think Meds will ever go back to the bullpen now! I’m thinking if the Braves could find a way to clone Meds, then the team may never lose again!

And as far as the team goes: I HOPE that this win is the start of something! If they can sweep and/or take this series against the Nats, then that hangs in the back of that team’s mind for if/when the Braves would face them again in the playoffs. The Braves need anything and everything to help them build some kind of momentum and consistency.

Jesse

September 15th, 2012
9:01 am

Why not start Medlen every day and let him just pitch the 1st inning? If they win when he starts…. maybe they’ll never lose

archie

September 15th, 2012
9:02 am

What’s up with the Braves organist? Didn’t hear much from him last night. Have the boring no-nonsense Braves pulled the plug?

Sonny Clusters

September 15th, 2012
9:08 am

That little Stalker2 fella is blogging about us again – and at 6:42 am. He must have woke up early because of scratchy pajamas. He was wanting us to say something about Fredi but we haven’t had time yet to read his post-game comments to see if he saw the winning run score.

Wilbo

September 15th, 2012
10:10 am

Medlen to the Yankees! Dodgers?

Phils Fan in ATL

September 15th, 2012
10:13 am

Braves fans,
Weep now for your future lies not far in front of you. Add this to the seasons of disappointments.
And if that small percentage chance we have of getting in happens, we will beat you.
1 for how many? and counting.
Btw, how many people here have been to a game this year? You’re almost as bad as the Rays fans, ATL.

BobbyDawg

September 15th, 2012
10:22 am

Look back over the scores of the last ten games and you’ll see that we’re not scoring runs. Same as this time last year ! GO BRAVES

Austin McGonigle

September 15th, 2012
10:56 am

Pastornicky hit a ground ball to a drawn-in infield not to “deep short”

Never ask tough questions at the AJC

September 15th, 2012
11:41 am

Why not ask Frank wren quit honorin chipper jones and start puttin fire under team…explain to me Freddi why Mets who are not as good as Brewers can swept them they will win today n sunday …If we had a Manager with Balls n sat Uggla4 down n replace we could had knock brew crew out and Phillies …But cap Tippin mamager can’t he not deserve be here if he lose wildcard game vs St.louis are Phillies are dodgers….play in divison series if he Puts in Martinez to pitch in that he Fired and Frank (smokin it) Wren……Out we should remind folks of chipper makin errors in 2000 …help them too and vs cubs….We better win today game on fox n espn saturday…..The end!

Never ask tough questions at the AJC

September 15th, 2012
11:49 am

What crowd where were they at cheetah 3 club….sheesh and i feel for Tampa bay the team is paid less and givin 100% the braves just barely get a 60% putout…another ERO(empty room only only)crowd great support….what crowd be For Game playoff here vs Phillies are St.Louis are dodgers are SF…..Going look good see on MLB network of just 30,000 barely there….game in st.louis be sold out etc..sorta like Tampa fans morons they goin find team in Montreal any year now!

Same Ole, negative dumbazz comments

September 15th, 2012
12:18 pm

My name is Same Ole, and I approve all of these negative comments on this blog.
The Braves are my favorite team, but I hate everyone of them.