Medlen's misfortune at home continues with injury
MAY 29, 2013 11:08p ET
Medlen's string of tough luck at Turner Field this season continued as Bonafacio's hit struck him in the upper left calf during the second inning and, after he finished Atlanta's half of the frame, sent the righty to the trainer's room after the muscle tightened up on him as he walked off the field. He never returned. The official word from the Braves: left calf contusion.
Though he is expected to make his next scheduled start (at home vs. Pittsburgh), it would be understandable if Medlen passed on the opportunity — if only to try to wait out the misfortune he's run into at home this season.
"I've been hit by a lot of balls in my life when I was playing (shortstop) … that's one of the harder ones that I've felt," Medlen said. "I think I knew right away (that he needed to come out) but I just wanted to at least get through the inning. I know how tough it is for our bullpen to do something like they did today. I was the worst pitcher out there today."
Technically speaking, Medlen is correct in that conclusion.
He finished with a final line of two innings pitched, four hits, three earned runs and a strikeout against Toronto. The bullpen, on the other hand, pitched seven scoreless innings for Atlanta, giving its offense opportunity after opportunity to stage a comeback in the 3-0 loss.
Perhaps the injury was merciful — once again, Medlen was certainly not enjoying the type of outing that made him the most dominant pitcher in baseball after the 2012 All-Star break — but don't tell him that. After he tasted historic success, a 1-6 record must feel quite surreal. Before going any further, though, let's run down a quick 2013 list of Medlen's poor luck in the "friendly confines":
-- Despite his 2.89 ERA at Turner Field, Medlen is now 0-3 at home this season. Even in his last start in Atlanta (May 16 vs. the Dodgers), arguably the best outing of his campaign to date, Medlen did not earn the win as his offense waited until the eighth inning to put an ample amount of runs on the board.
-- The Braves have scored just 10 runs in his five home starts. The 27-year-old was receiving just 2.82 runs of support per game entering his injury-shortened start against Toronto. That number will now decrease.
-- Atlanta's defense, as has conspicuously been the case at times since last season's one-game playoff against St. Louis, was not entirely sound with Medlen on the mound. As a team, Atlanta is one of the better-fielding MLB franchises (15 defensive runs saved, fifth-best), but, highlighted by subtle gaffes from Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann, it was a subpar effort Wednesday night. The Braves finished with two errors officially, but multiple bases were allowed due to defensive miscues.
-- Oh yeah, and a Blue Jays batter hit him in the calf with a baseball. McCann probably put it best after the game: "He got smoked."
Fifty-two games in, it is still hard to cast judgment on Medlen's performance.
For starters, he (along with every other pitcher at any level) should not be judged solely on wins and losses. However, there are holes in the right-hander's game that were not there a season prior: His strikeouts have decreased, he's giving up far more home runs and, as my colleague Cory McCartney pointed out after Medlen's last start, his pitch values have diminished nearly across the board according to FanGraphs. And after walking just 23 batters in 138 innings in 2012, Medlen allowed his 24th base-on-balls of the season Wednesday — and he's pitched just 64 2/3 innings so far.
That spells drop-off, but not necessarily disaster.
He was never going "pick up where he left off" — it seems unfair to hold anyone up to those ridiculous standards — but he's better than this. He has to be. Last season's remarkable 12-start run could not be such a significant departure from reality.
Sitting in front of his locker after Atlanta's second loss to the Blue Jays in three games, Medlen looked the part of the unfortunate pitcher. He could hardly talk due to the laryngitis, answering three questions before retiring to silence. His left leg's contusion was heavily wrapped. If there's an image of Kris Medlen's season to date — both in fortune and performance — that was close.
Perhaps, following a two-inning, contusion-halted outing that was rolling downhill anyway, this is rock bottom for Medlen's 2013 season. After all, how much worse can his luck become?
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