Medlen's multitasking lifts Braves in LA
LOS ANGELES -- Kris Medlen has fond memories of the many visits he made to Dodger Stadium during his youth. But none of them were as exhilarating as the latest ones he created during his most recent visit to the storied ballpark.
Medlen was a one-man wrecking crew as he proved masterful on the mound and hit his first career home run while helping the Braves end a two-game skid with Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Dodgers.
"It couldn't have been a better day," Medlen said. "And most importantly, we got the win, which was awesome. For me to hit my first home run here, it's kind of cloud nine. I'm kind of speechless. I've had dreams of doing that for the Dodgers as an infielder, but I'll take it."
While there is a slim possibility that the energetic Medlen was momentarily speechless, there is no doubt he will spend the rest of his life talking about the decisive solo home run he hit off Dodgers starter Stephen Fife with one out in the fifth inning.
Medlen's shot cleared the right-field wall by just enough to prevent rookie phenom Yusiel Puig from robbing a home run and adding to his already-impressive legend. But the distance traveled by the line-drive shot is sure to grow over the course of the next few days and years.
"I'm sure tomorrow he's going to come in and say he hit it 550 feet," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But I think it just barely got over. I don't know, Roy Hobbs [Puig] over there might have been able to catch it."
When Braves closer Craig Kimbrel stranded a runner at second base with Puig on deck in a scoreless ninth inning, he notched his 18th save and enabled his teammates to celebrate a win that came courtesy of the home runs that Dan Uggla and Medlen hit off Fife in the fifth inning.
"There's no way he could have hit that homer without seeing me do it first," said Uggla, who opened the fifth with his 11th homer. "So I'm taking all the credit."
Uggla could not take credit for the mound performance provided by Medlen, who scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings. The Braves right-hander cruised through the first five innings and then escaped the sixth inning unscathed after surrendering Nick Punto's leadoff double.
"He battled his tail off tonight," Uggla said. "He was making pitches and hitting homers. He was fun to watch tonight."
Medlen had at least 15 friends and family members in attendance to see him live some of those dreams that were created when he was in the stands watching the Dodgers. Many of them were from his hometown of Norwalk, which is located approximately 30 minutes south of Dodger Stadium.
They were treated to the first home run he has hit since hitting one while playing for Double-A Mississippi in 2008.
As Medlen was enjoying his first home run trot at the big league level, he briefly stopped at second base because he wanted to make sure the ball had not bounced over for a ground-rule double.
"I've literally had dreams of hitting a home run here as the shortstop for the Dodgers," Medlen said. "I was a position player and it was my team. I had dreams of actually doing that. So I did it against them, which was just as good because the Braves are like my family so it is awesome."
While the home run will serve as the evening's most memorable event, Medlen's pitching performance further distanced him from the mechanical problems that led to the 3.44 ERA he posted in this year's first eight starts.
Medlen has not allowed an earned run in the 13 2/3 innings that have encompassed his past two starts. He has also not allowed an earned run in three of his past five starts. In the process, he has started to look more like he did while posting a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last year.
"I wouldn't say I feel like I did last year, but I feel more consistent than I did in my first five, six or seven starts this year," Medlen said.
The Braves have seen their starting pitchers surrender 14 hits and allow just two runs in the 29 innings they have completed over the past four games.
Hanley Ramirez prevented the Braves from notching a shutout with his two-out, eighth-inning single off Jordan Walden. But the Dodgers shortstop's efforts were not enough to ruin the memorable night produced by the guy who grew up dreaming of being the Dodgers' shortstop.
"There's just something that brings it out in me here," Medlen said. "I love playing here. I love pitching here. It gives me a feeling that you're here. Like you're a big leaguer. It's great."