Kris Medlen grew up in Southern California and made frequent trips to Dodger Stadium. Saturday night, in his second career start at Chavez Ravine, the Atlanta Braves’ right-hander had the best of both worlds on the mound and at the plate.
Medlen pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings and hit his first major league home run, Dan Uggla also went deep, and the Braves continued their recent stretch of dominant starting pitching in a 2-1 victory.
”Every time I come here in a cab or on the team bus, it brings back memories of my dad or my uncle taking me to games,” Medlen said. ”It couldn’t have been a better day. And most importantly, we got the win, which was awesome. For me to hit my first home run here, I’m on Cloud 9.”
Medlen (3-6) scattered five hits, struck out six and allowed only one baserunner as far as third. That was in the sixth inning, when the right-hander retired Andre Ethier on a flyball to shallow center field and fanned Scott Van Slyke after Nick Punto led off with a double and advanced on a groundout by Adrian Gonzalez.
Medlen has won back-to-back starts for the first time this season, and has a 2.87 ERA over his first 13 starts. Last year he was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 regular-season starts after being inserted into the rotation on July 31.
Atlanta’s rotation has yielded just three runs in 31 1-3 innings spanning the team’s last five games.
”Our starting pitching’s been the backbone of this team,” Uggla said. ”They’ve been so consistent and kept us in ballgames, and they battle. They’ve just done an amazing job, going deep into games and taking a little stress off of our bullpen.”
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, hobbled by a troublesome left hamstring, pinch hit for the third straight night and greeted Jordan Walden with an RBI single in the eighth. The unearned run was charged to Luis Avilan, after a throwing error by shortstop Andrelton Simmons on an attempted double-play relay to first base.
Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth for his 18th save in 21 attempts.
Stephen Fife (1-1) allowed two runs and nine hits with seven strikeouts in his third start of the season and second since getting recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to replace the injured Chris Capuano in the Dodgers’ rotation.
”I started trying to do too much in terms of effort level, and things went side to side instead of up and down,” Fife said. ”A hanging breaking ball to Dan Uggla, I can probably live with that one. But that mis-located fastball to a pitcher is probably one I’d like to have back.”
Uggla led off the fifth with his 11th homer on an 0-2 pitch, and Medlen hit a 1-0 delivery just over the right field fence two batters later.
”There’s no way he could have hit that homer without seeing me do it first. I’m taking all the credit,” Uggla deadpanned. ”He stole my thunder. But that was cool. Every pitcher wants to hit a homer. It’s something that he’ll remember for the rest of his line, and it was fun to watch it.”
Yasiel Puig continued to shine for the Dodgers in his first week in the major leagues. He got two more hits along with his second outfield assist, charging Jason Heyward’s single to right field in the fifth and firing a seed to third baseman Luis Cruz on the fly to nab Simmons as he tried to advance two bases.
”It reminds you of an Ichiro (Suzuki) or Jeff Francoeur type of arm,” Fife said. ”You just watch it happen and go: `Wow, that’s pretty good.’ We’re definitely watching something special with him.”
In six games so far, the Cuban-born phenom is 10 for 23 in the leadoff spot with 10 RBIs and four home runs – including an opposite-field grand slam.
Simmons drove Fife’s second pitch of the game to left-center for a double, Heyward walked and Justin Upton advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt – only the third of his seven-year career and first in 1,559 plate appearances since his previous one on Sept. 14, 2010. But Fife escaped the jam, throwing called third strikes past Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.
”In that situation, we had first and second with no outs and I thought I could load the bases right there with a bunt because they were playing back,” Upton said. ”I squared around late enough to get a base hit if I got the bunt down in the right area. And if it doesn’t work out, we still have second and third with Freddie and McCann swinging a hot bat.”
NOTES: Upton has gone 49 official at-bats without an RBI since his run-scoring double against Dillon Gee on May 25 at New York. He has only one in 72 at-bats since his five-RBI game against the Dodgers on May 17 in Atlanta. … The Dodgers have had 10 rookies of the year who were position players, and none of them came close to the start that Puig has gotten off to with the four homers coming in his first 19 at bats. Mike Piazza needed 96 at-bats to get his second home run, Raul Mondesi 65, Frank Howard 49 and Jackie Robinson 120. … The Dodgers are expected to place LHP Ted Lilly on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday because of neck soreness. RHP Matt Magill will be recalled from Triple-A to start the series finale instead against LHP Mike Minor. … The Dodgers brought Old-Timers’ Day back to Chavez Ravine for the first time since 1995, marking 50 years since the Dodgers’ four-game World Series sweep of the Yankees. A ”Who’s Who” of Dodgers and Yankees from World Series past were on hand – including Sandy Koufax, Goose Gossage, Dwight Gooden and Chris Chambliss.