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

Jon

September 14th, 2012
7:07 pm

Let’s go Braves. Finish the drill. Or don’t collapse. Either is fine.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
7:11 pm

Keep winning so we can hand pick our play-in WC game starting pitcher. We could potentially have a significant advantage over second wild card if they are required to throw their ace to just to get to the play-in game

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
7:20 pm

Birdhair — So if Braves have time to set the rotation, do you think they’ll go with Medlen (their best pitcher now) or Hudson (their perceived veteran ace)?

BraveFan

September 14th, 2012
7:34 pm

I go with Medlen. He has been dominant. Right now he matches up well with any pitcher.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
7:36 pm

‘Sports isn’t a debate decided by logic and percentages. It’s theater without a script.” – Ol’ Jeff

We cried when we read that. That is some nice sportswriting for a Braves blog. Also, Jeff spells better than most of us on hear.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
7:45 pm

Jeff, we read that Chipper is one of the best switch hitters in baseball but he is not ambidextrous. How much does ambidextrosity come into play for the great switch hitters?

Steve

September 14th, 2012
7:48 pm

Gotta go with Medlen in the Wild Card game. Jeff, where the heck is Jurrjens? I know he is no longer in the rotation but is he in the bullpen still? Sent down to the minors? Released? He just vanished.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
7:50 pm

Sonny Clusters — Please, let’s keep this PG. No discussion about ambidextory or any of the other weird things we read about people in Hollywood.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
7:51 pm

Medlen should throw, but FG will go with Huddy

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
7:52 pm

Steve — Jurrjens is in Gwinnett.

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:01 pm

Ah. Thank you. My guess is that he is done as an Atlanta Brave?

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:02 pm

Kris Medlen: 5 strikeouts in 2 innings. Also, he overthrew Libya.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:03 pm

Steve — Correct. Jurrjens will be released after season.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
8:06 pm

FG, Chino (flying in from KC…he has to buy 2 seats on plane), TP, and Hinske are headed to golden corral after the game. FG thinks a double switch is when he steals Chino’s sandwich when he’s not looking.

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:07 pm

What a story. From an All-Star to nothing in 12 months. Medlen is ridiculous. He probably even picked Rutgers last night over South Florida. Thanks again, South Florida for a bad start to the weekly football contest.

JSS

September 14th, 2012
8:09 pm

They throw away pitchers like no other franchise in baseball… Oh well…
Can October 3rd hurry up
and get here?

Dum-Bass

September 14th, 2012
8:09 pm

Call me crazy but with the way things are going, would have bunted both CJ and Freeman in that first inning. Got to think outside the box now and do something out of the ordinary just to get it jump started! Couldn’t have been any worse now could it?

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:11 pm

Medlen is simply amazing. I bet he even picked Rutgers last night over South Florida. Thanks again Bulls for the bad start to this weeks games in the contest.

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:14 pm

“Are you kidding? This is the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball,” he said. “It could use help everywhere.”

-Bobby Valentine

Wow what a winner. I miss those days when he was with the Mets and the Braves owned them.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:15 pm

JSS — Jurrjens still has 1 more year of arbitration (I think) and no way will Braves want to pay him. But I think he’s still going to be a good starter for somebody.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
8:16 pm

Cat-like reflexes at the hot corner.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:24 pm

Sonny Clusters — Seeing as how every team is giving Chipper a going-away present, what are your plans for a gift? He wanted me to ask you.

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:25 pm

Thanks Jeff for info..JJ’s contract is up..no option per cots contracts.Braves have already reported he will not come back up. But I agree he will pitch somewhere next year.
Go Braves kick some A@@….

The Nature Boy

September 14th, 2012
8:25 pm

ambidexterity is word…..I had to google it…but ambidextory..?? The Braves need to win this series…to show they can…

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:25 pm

Bad call. Heyward was safe.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:29 pm

Bill — No option but, like I said, I think Jurrjens is still arbitration-eligible and Braves can retain his rights, unless they don’t make a qualifying offer, which they won’t.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:30 pm

The Nature Boy — It was a joke.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
8:30 pm

Surprised FG doesnt like to get himself thrown out. He can go eat the clubhouse meal leftovers?

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:32 pm

How many years of arbitration do you get? He has been here since 2007 and has had two years arbitration already. Just wondering but you probably right.

The Nature Boy

September 14th, 2012
8:33 pm

a joke targeted at clusters….and it went over head….WHOOOAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the nature boy is immune from embarassment……

Wang Dawg Doodle

September 14th, 2012
8:35 pm

Fredi, Chino, TP and Hinske at the same table? Gas masks optional, surely.

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:35 pm

Nature boy.Woooooooooooooooo

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

Kris is looking good…now get the bats going.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

Three strikeouts, all looking. Medlen’s getting benefit of doubt on some of these strikes (IMO).

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:38 pm

So is Mr. Medlen going to get a nice raise when its time or what?

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:39 pm

Medlen’s high for Ks this is season is 12 vs. Colorado. Already has 9 through 4 innings.

Sonny Clusters

September 14th, 2012
8:39 pm

Excuse us, we was at the DQ. Jeff, we would probably send Chipper some Dilly-Bars if we was going to give him a going away gift. Somebody already bronzed his glove.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
8:42 pm

Wish FW had read my non-stop demands on the blogs before the deadline to offer teheran + for headley.

The Nature Boy

September 14th, 2012
8:42 pm

I know where to get a gift card for a reputable taxidermist……

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:43 pm

Braves are getting Medlen at a bargain this season: $490,000. And he still has 3 years of arbitration to go (first after this season).

TN Jeff

September 14th, 2012
8:43 pm

Here’s what I don’t understand about the Braves and so many AJC writers that keep talking about winning the play-in game leading up to playing the Nationals in the playoffs. First, they Braves are NOT all that great at home so I don’t see them having a home field advantage. More importantly, why would we trust them to win a winner take all game? Last year they needed to win one game in their last 6 (I believe) and they could NOT do it. IF (and this is a BIG IF) they secure one of the wild card teams, they’ll be one & done. Kind of hard to get excited about that.

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:43 pm

Jeff do you think the Braves will stick with Uggla or possibly try to trade or release him over the offseason?

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:44 pm

Warming up boys lets go Uggla get him in. Maybe Kris can pitch the one game wild card game.

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:44 pm

TN Jeff — “Here’s what I don’t understand about the Braves and so many AJC writers that keep talking about winning the play-in game leading up to playing the Nationals in the playoffs.”

Do people just make this stuff up? I’ve never assumed anything.

The Nature Boy

September 14th, 2012
8:46 pm

@ sonny
I know where to get a gift card from a reputable taxidermist…..he’s honest….and when you leave with your trophy..there aint no $$$ left on the table…he’s fair……

TN Jeff

September 14th, 2012
8:48 pm

I’m just telling you what I keep reading & hearing from the announcers. Even though we are gonna get burned by this new wild card deal, I still like it. It puts a premium on winning your division as it should be.

Birdhair

September 14th, 2012
8:48 pm

Uggla? Bad contract. KK? Bad contract. Drunk Lowe? Bad Contract. Nate McOut? Failure. Bourn? His second half OBP has reverted to career mean (not a good obp). His OBP with us second half last season was garbage What gives? Wren needs to go. Doesn’t spend wisely, doesn’t value obp, and 0 playoff series wins.

Bill

September 14th, 2012
8:48 pm

That ball hit lady in head?

Jeff Schultz

September 14th, 2012
8:50 pm

Double, walk, FC and sac fly — Braves milk all that for a run. Medlen has a 1-0 lead.

Steve

September 14th, 2012
8:52 pm

TN Jeff we really love your positive attitude. Thanks! Oh and enjoy the loss to UGA in Athens in a few weeks.