No win for Medlen, but Braves prevail again
ATLANTA – The confidence never left Kris Medlen.
Not when he had Tommy John surgery.
Not when he missed nearly an entire season while rehabbing his right elbow.
And not when he started this season in the Braves' bullpen.
That's just how he thinks, how he attacks life.
It's not cockiness or arrogance. He just thinks he can beat you.
Medlen is the guy with the straight bill and the moving pitches who looks like the dudes you might see playing Hacky Sack at the skateboard park.
His outlook is California Cool, but his arm is Southern Sizzling.
Medlen wasn't the winning pitcher against the Nationals at Turner Field on Friday night, but he was practically unhittable once again. He struck out a career-high 13 batters in seven innings and left with the game tied before the Braves won 2-1 in the ninth.
But that's what they always do when Medlen pitches, or at least the last 20 times he's started.
That streak dates to 2010 and is MLB's longest since the Yankees won 20 straight Roger Clemens starts in 2001.
"That's the goal. It's something you strive for as a team, to go out and win games," Medlen said. "If they're winning when I'm on the mound, keep running me out there. That's something I've taken pride in all of my life is winning games and winning no matter what.
"It's just worked out that way. I don't know what it is about me on the mound. One of my last starts in 2010, I gave up five in six innings and we still won the game. It's not like I'm throwing zeros up there all the time."
Um, pretty close.
Even though he didn't get the win, Medlen has been missing bats ever since he joined the Braves' rotation on July 31.
It's easy to see why he was the NL pitcher of the month for August.
Medlen is 7-0 (4-0 with a 0.50 ERA last month) in his nine starts and has allowed only seven runs in 62.2 innings.
Even though he spells his first name with a K, he doesn't call himself a strikeout pitcher. Try telling that to the 46 batters he's whiffed in his past 37 innings (a ratio of 11.19 per nine innings).
"Certain things are working certain days. It really just comes down to execution," Medlen said. "It sounds robotic, but it's executing your pitches. If you set guys up, you can kind of do what you want. ... When you have two strikes, you want to put them away."
His 13 strikeouts Friday night surpassed his career high of 12, set just 11 days ago, and earned a Twitter shout-out from Chipper Jones – "13 punchies by Med? Unbelievable!" – and left Medlen feeling a little giddy.
After watching fire-balling closer Craig Kimbrel strike out the side in the ninth, Medlen said: "He saw how many strikeouts I had and he was getting a little jealous. I just hope I finish the season with more strikeouts than him."
For the record, Medlen has 102 in 117 innings to Kimbrel's 101 in 54 1/3 innings.
Medlen's success is even more remarkable considering he spent most of 2011 coming back from having his elbow rebuilt. He had a setback last summer, prompting the Braves to shut him down for six weeks, but he reached the majors in time to pitch a couple of innings last September.
His confidence remained strong through that time, bolstered by teammates who had gone through the same thing. He just yearned for another chance.
"I sit there sometimes and kind of wonder, ‘How am I supposed to keep this up?' " Medlen said. "I just stop thinking like that and I simplify and I just take it that one pitch at one time. … I go out there and battle for that at-bat at that time and I think I can get you out. That's kind of the thing that's taken off for me this year. It's kind of snowballed."