Kris Medlen has already garnered comparisons to Greg Maddux in his young career, but he drew a direct comparison to another Hall of Fame pitcher after the Atlanta Braves won his 21st straight start to take the series from the Miami Marlins in a 3-0 final.
While Medlen improved to 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts this season, the Braves made their streak of winning 21 straight of Medlen's starts the longest since the New York Yankees won 22 straight of Whitey Ford's starts from 1950-53. The timing was also such that it moved the Braves' magic number to clinch a playoff spot to five.
"I just go out there and try to win every time; that's the goal," Medlen said. "It's all Groundhog Day. It's the same thing every day, just a different lineup. You attack guys and see what happens."
While Medlen laughed at the thought of and doesn't think he belongs in the same sentence as Ford, he still had the mound presence to shut out the Nationals over eight innings despite getting into some early inning trouble. The first inning saw Gorkys Hernandez single with one out before stealing second and third, but Medlen escaped unscathed and eventually retired the final 12 batters he faced.
In the second inning, Medlen gave up a one-out double to Rob Brantly but worked around that. He also allowed a lead-off single to Donavan Solano in the fifth and advanced Solano to third on a pickoff attempt with one out, but he managed to escape that trouble as well.
"Medlen continues to just plug along," Chipper Jones said. "I don't think he was as sharp as we've seen him in his most recent starts, but still good enough to go out and shut out a Major League ballclub for eight innings."
The Braves supported Medlen by scoring a run in each of the first three innings against Josh Johnson, who entered the game with a 2.17 ERA against Atlanta. The Braves, however, worked deep counts and manufactured runs to drive Johnson's pitch count to 45 after two innings.
"This is the time of the season we need to be doing that," Fredi Gonzalez said. "Every run from here on in and the postseason is going to be hard. You're going to be scrapping for them, and when you get those opportunities, you got to take advantage of them."
Michael Bourn started the game with a lead-off double. As just the second batter in the game, Martin Prado bunted over Bourn before Heyward drove him in with the first of two Braves sacrifice flies.
Dan Uggla manufactured a run by drawing a one-out walk in the second inning. Though Brian McCann struck out on a full count, Uggla stole his third base of the year to set up Jose Constanza's RBI-single.
Prado also drew a walk in the third inning and moved to third on a single by Chipper before scoring on Freddie Freeman's sacrifice fly.
The hit was Chipper's 2,721st, tying him with Lou Gehrig for 58th on the all-time hit list.
"Lou's a big one," Jones said. "That's the Iron Horse, man. [I'm] just really honored to have as many hits in my career as one of the greatest in the game. Now we got to work on passing him."
Craig Kimbrel stitched together his 38th save without striking out a batter, a true rarity for him. Jose Reyes singled to start the ninth, and Kimbrel hit Greg Dobbs with a pitch, but he induced two groundouts to end the game.
Entering Thursday's off-day before traveling to Philadelphia, the Braves moved to five games behind the Washington Naitonals for the National League East lead.
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