Regular-season run of 23 straight wins doesn't carry over vs. Cards
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ANTA -- As Kris Medlen walked off the mound in the seventh inning of the National League Wild Card game Friday, the 52,631 fans at Turner Field rose to their feet. The Braves were trailing the Cardinals by two runs, but they cheered Atlanta's unlikely ace anyway. Medlen raised his glove in acknowledgement when he reached the dirt of the warning track before disappearing into the dugout.
As a starter, Medlen has made a habit of not leaving games with the Braves behind on the scoreboard. Atlanta had won 23 straight regular-season games he started, dating back to 2010. Medlen left only one game he started this season in line for a loss. That day, Sept. 25, the Braves came back and won thanks to Freddie Freeman's walk-off two-run home run that clinched a playoff spot.
Friday, however, in the playoff game Freeman's homer guaranteed they would play in, there would be no Braves comeback. In a game the Braves needed to win to advance in the postseason, they would finally lose a game Medlen started, falling, 6-3, to the Cardinals.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he thought Medlen pitched well, even as the Braves' defense put him in one pressure-packed situation after another.
"I thought we did a nice job on Medlen," Gonzalez said. "We kept putting him behind the eight ball, and he kept making pitches."
Medlen began the game well, striking out the first two Cardinals batters. He didn't allow a hit until Carlos Beltran led off the fourth with a single. From there, Medlen's good start took a turn for the worse.
It began with a tailor-made double-play ground ball to third baseman Chipper Jones that the future Hall of Famer threw over second baseman Dan Uggla's head for an error. The Cardinals went on to score three runs in the inning after Jones' error, taking the lead for good.
While Jones said blame for the Braves' loss belonged on him for making what he called a game-changing error, Medlen said it's his responsibility as a pitcher to minimize the damage when his fielders make a mistake. Instead, he allowed an RBI double, which led to two more runs.
"You find yourself in situations, but you know how to get out of them, and it's up to you to execute your pitches when you need to," Medlen said. "I let those runs in, so I don't blame anybody else."
Medlen allowed five runs (two earned) on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out four.
The ending wasn't what Medlen wanted to his whirlwind season. Medlen began the year in the bullpen in an attempt to limit his innings as he worked back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August 2010. After joining the rotation at the end of July, Medlen became the Braves' best starting pitcher. In 12 starts, he went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA and racked up back-to-back NL Pitcher of the Month awards.
In the process, he and the Braves set the Major League record with 23 consecutive wins in games he started. Medlen and the Braves will carry that streak into next April when he next takes the mound. Until then, Medlen will be left to dwell on what Uggla told him as the regular season ended in Pittsburgh this week.