Kris Medlen is 6-0 as a starter with a 0.54 ERA
Baffling opposing hitters with a mix of plus pitches delivered with pinpoint command, Kris Medlen continued his remarkable transition from reliever to starter this season by earning a complete game victory over Colorado on Monday.
The 26-year-old right-hander allowed one unearned run and five hits to accompany 12 strikeouts and no walks. Of his 111 pitches, 85 were strikes. The unearned run, which scored when shortstop Paul Janish committed a throwing error, snapped Medlen’s scoreless streak at 34.2 innings. It marked the longest such stretch by a Braves pitcher since Greg Maddux (another renowned strike thrower) tossed 39.1 consecutive scoreless frames in 2000.
Though the scoreless streak reached an end, Medlen is in the midst of a feat that is more important to his team. Dating back to 2010, Atlanta has won the last 18 games he has started, the longest winning sreak for a team behind one pitcher since the Yankees captured 21 games in a row that were started by Roger Clemens in 2001.
A 10th round pick by the Braves out of Santa Ana College in 2006, Medlen has appeared in 115 games over parts of four Major League seasons, including 25 starts. He made his Major League debut in 2009, posting a 3-5 record and a 4.28 ERA in 37 games, four of which were starts.
Medlen underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2010. At the time, he was 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 31 games, including 14 starts, that year. He spent most of 2011 rehabbing on the disabled list, appearing in two games and 2.1 innings late last year. He opened the 2012 season in the bullpen and remained there until late July. When the Braves did not acquire another starter beyond Paul Maholm, they moved Medlen into the rotation.
In Medlen’s final relief appearance this year, he tossed three shutout innings against Miami on July 25. In his first start of the season on July 31 against the same Marlins team, he allowed one run and five hits over five innings, striking out three and walking one.
Medlen’s gem on Monday was his second complete game. The first was a shutout against San Diego on August 16 when he allowed five hits, struck out six and did not issue a walk.
As a starter, Medlen is 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a .206 batting average against in seven outings and 49.2 innings, Overall, he is 7-1 with a 1.56 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and a .220 opponent’s batting average.
Over his last four starts, Medlen has delivered nine innings twice, eight innings once and seven innings in the other outing. He has not surrendered more than one unearned run in any of his seven starts.
For the Braves, which are 76-59 and own the top wild card spot in the National League, Medlen’s emergence as a starter gives the club flexibility this off-season.
They have a $9 million club option on Tim Hudson and a $6.5 million team option on Maholm. Brandon Beachy is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the Braves have talented right-hander Tommy Hanson and 25-year-old lefty Mike Minor, who has promise. They could also choose to bring back veteran righty Ben Sheets, who is on the 15-day DL but has a respectable 3.54 ERA in eight starts.
Atlanta also boasts 21-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran, who is ranked as the top overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com and is at Triple-A Gwinnett. Left-hander Sean Gilmartin, who is 22 and was the team’s first round pick in 2011, is already at Triple-A Gwinnett.
The Braves are rich in starting pitching, and Medlen is an arm they can build the rotation around because of his ability to consistently go deep into outings and preserve the bullpen.