All Medlen and his Braves teammates know is that they win when he’s on the mound, something they hope will continue against the St. Louis Cardinals in Friday’s National League Wild Card game (5:07 p.m.) at Turner Field.
The Braves have won a MLB-record 23 consecutive starts by Medlen, a record once held by Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Carl Hubbell.
“It’s a team thing, and the main goal is winning,” Medlen said. “The fact that they’ve won as however many in a row when I’ve pitched is a really cool feeling. Like I said, we’re not done, so hopefully it keeps on going. I just really take pride in the team aspect rather than the personal.”
The winner of the one-game playoff will advance to face the Washington Nationals in one of the two NL Division Series. The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants will play in the other NLDS.
Atlanta will face St. Louis right-hander Kyle Lohse, who is 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, but gave up nine hits and five runs in a no decision in Atlanta on May 30.
The Braves won five of their six regular-season games against the Cardinals.
Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) is starting because he’s been Atlanta’s best starter since he joined the rotation on July 31. He’s 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in his 12 starts and he was the NL’s pitcher of the month for both August and September.
Medlen, who will turn 27 years old on Sunday, is the first Brave to do that since Greg Maddux in June and July of 2001.
“He’s the ace of our staff. He’s developed himself into the ace of our staff,” Chipper Jones said. “We know that if we go out there and give him three or four runs, the game’s basically over. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence. We all knew that he was capable of that. He was real valuable to our ballclub out there in the pen, but I think you can see that he’s a little more valuable to us in the starting rotation.”
Medlen will be throwing to backup catcher David Ross, who will start ahead of Brian McCann. Ross has been one of the Braves’ top hitters the the past 10 days (five hits, two homers and four RBIs) and McCann is struggling with shoulder and knee injuries.
With Ross as his catcher, Medlen struck out 12 batters in a 6-1 complete-game win over the Rockies on Sept. 3 and then had a career-high 13 strikeouts in seven innings in a 2-1 victory over the Nationals on Sept. 14.
McCann caught Medlen on Sept. 8 (three strikeouts in 6 innings) and on Sept. 19 (six strikeouts in eight innings) before Ross caught him again on Sunday (four strikeouts in six innings).
“I love Brian McCann too, but throwing to Rossy, he almost invents stuff in the middle of the game, which kind of fires you up,” Medlen said. “I mean, you haven’t thrown a certain pitch the entire game, and when we need to make a pitch, he’ll call an inside changeup to a righty, and you’re just like, ‘OK. Are you sure?’ It makes you want to execute it. … He’s great behind the plate and I’m super happy that he’s catching.”
Said Ross, “He’s a different bird and he’s a lot of fun to catch.”
Medlen hasn’t changed his routine for the playoff start.
He’s started after off days this year, even going to the park near his home to play catch with teammate Peter Moylan before his start against the Marlins on Sept. 25.
“When I’m on the mound, the crowd doesn’t really faze me at all, but going out there and all that other stuff, I acknowledge it,” Medlen said. “I know they’re excited, and I’m excited too. But when it comes down to it, when I’m on the mound, I’ve got to zone in and block all that out.”