Braves hope Medlen can extend streak in wild card
ATLANTA — Break out the peanut butter and honey. Kris Medlen is ready for another start.
Only this time, it's the biggest game of his career.
The diminutive right-hander, who didn't even start the season in Atlanta's rotation, will deliver the first pitch in the inaugural wild-card playoff against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves couldn't have asked for anyone better in the winner-take-all format, considering they haven't lost a start by Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) in more than two years.
Just stop reminding him about it.
“It's not me by myself,” said Medlen, who always snacks on a peanut butter and honey sandwich before his starts. “That's for sure.”
The Braves have won 23 consecutive starts by Medlen — a modern big league record. He eclipsed the mark held by a pair of Hall of Famers, Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford.
“You can't help but notice when someone's having the amount of success that he's had,” said Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86), who will start for the Cardinals. “My job is to do the same thing that he's doing. Go out there and shut down their team.”
No one is quite sure what to expect from the one-game format, which was added this year when Major League Baseball expanded the playoff field by adding a second wild-card team in each league. The winner advances to face NL East champion Washington in the divisional round.
If the Braves needed any more motivation, they could turn to the words of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.
As St. Louis closed in on the second wild card, the players took note of the raucous celebration by the Braves after they clinched a playoff spot — especially Wainwright, who came up in the Atlanta organization.
“No disrespect to what they did, but I think we're going to save the big pop for after we beat Atlanta,” he said.
No one has been better than Medlen over the past two months.
Forced into the rotation by injuries and ineffective performances, he suddenly became baseball's hottest pitcher.
He hardly looks the part, generously listed at 5-foot-10 with a fastball that struggles to reach 90 mph. But he is especially bedeviling with his changeup, a pitch the organization ordered him to throw coming up through the minors.
In 12 starts this season, Medlen is 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA. He struck out 13 hitters in one game, 12 in another. In six of those appearances, he didn't give up an earned run.