The Atlanta Braves may own the NL's best record, but they sure don't look the part lately with a mediocre offense.
They'll likely need to turn things around Saturday night against the San Diego Padres to avoid their first three-game home slide in over four months.
Atlanta's magic number for clinching the NL East remained at six following a 4-3 loss to San Diego in Friday's opener as second-place Washington claimed a 6-1 win over Philadelphia. The Braves (88-59) looked primed for a win with a 3-0 lead after six innings and five scoreless frames from David Hale in his first big league start.
But the Padres (67-79) scored two runs each in both the seventh and eighth innings, with pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe delivering the go-ahead single.
Despite homering Friday, Upton and McCann are a combined 6 for 54 (.111) during that stretch.
The only other time Atlanta lost three in a row at Turner Field this season was May 1-3, with two defeats to the Nationals and one against the Mets.
Even if their offense continues to struggle to produce, the Braves figure to have a good chance with Kris Medlen (13-12, 3.46 ERA) on the mound. Medlen is 4-2 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six starts and has been particularly tough lately at home, posting a 4-1 record and 1.50 ERA in his last five outings there.
After starting the year 1-6 overall, he pushed his record over the .500 mark for the first time by allowing two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-2 win at Miami on Monday.
"It's pretty fun to look back and see that I started 1-6 and kind of turned things around," said Medlen, whose cause was helped by Atlanta's five-run fourth inning. "I'm not the one scoring the runs, and they had a huge inning for me today. It's kind of what's gotten me to this point this year."
Medlen has also been strong versus San Diego, going 2-2 with a 1.33 ERA over six matchups. Two were starts in which he threw a combined 17 scoreless innings, though Chase Headley - who homered in the eighth on Friday - is 3 for 8 off him.
The Padres will counter with left-handed rookie Robbie Erlin (2-2, 5.56). Erlin has been solid in two starts since being recalled from the minors after the release of Edinson Volquez , winning once and limiting opponents to three runs over 11 1-3 innings.
One of the club's top pitching prospects, Erlin went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA in six games - four starts - earlier in the year.
Atlanta's Jason Heyward took batting practice prior to Friday's contest for the first time since a pitch fractured his right jaw Aug. 21, though there still isn't a timetable for his return. The Braves hope to get him back before the regular season's end.
Medlen has received a decision in 19 consecutive starts, going 12-7.
Atlanta had won nine straight games against NL West opponents prior to Friday.
San Diego has won six of the last seven meetings while limiting the Braves to 18 runs.
|San Diego Padres|
|July 31, 2013||Carlos Quentin||15-Day DL||Right knee strain|
|July 23, 2013||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore right wrist|
|July 20, 2013||Jason Marquis||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|July 12, 2013||Kyle Blanks||15-Day DL||Left Achilles tendinitis|
|July 12, 2013||Kyle Blanks||15-Day DL||Left Achilles tendinitis|
|July 07, 2013||Yasmani Grandal||60-Day DL||Right knee sprain|
|September 11, 2013||Paul Maholm||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|September 10, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 29, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Left hand injury|
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 21, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 20, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Strained upper back|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Kris Medlen is putting together another second-half run that is helping the Atlanta Braves move closer to the NL East title.
Medlen allowed four hits over 7 1-3 scoreless innings to win his fourth straight start, leading the Braves to a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
The first-place Braves increased their lead over second-place Washington to 11 games. Any combination of four Braves wins or Nationals losses will give Atlanta its first division title since 2005.
Medlen (14-12) has enjoyed a strong resurgence after a slow start. He went 1-6 over the first two months of the season but is 8-2 in his last 10 games.
In 2012, Medlen moved into the rotation on July 31 and then was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts.
"Whether I'm a second-half guy or whatever it is, I just feel like I've clicked," Medlen said.
The Braves led 2-0 before Chase Headley hit a ninth-inning homer off closer Craig Kimbrel , who then pitched around a two-out walk to Ronny Cedeno for his career-best 47th save - the most in the majors.
Freddie Freeman had three hits, including a sixth-inning homer off Robbie Erlin (2-3), to help the Braves earn their first win of the season over the Padres. San Diego won the first four games of the season series.
Medlen's surge has been especially important after staff leader Tim Hudson broke his right ankle on July 25 and was lost for the season.
Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran have taken over atop the rotation.
Is Medlen, the staff leader in wins, the Braves' emerging ace?
"I think there are a lot of guys you could say that about," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think his last four starts have been really, really good. Maybe more than that."
Medlen looked like an ace to Padres manager Bud Black .
"He's their guy," Black said. "He's won 14 games. Obviously, they're on their way to the playoffs. I suspect that he'll be their first-game pitcher."
Medlen, who had five strikeouts and two walks, was removed after allowing a bloop single to Will Venable with one out in the eighth. David Carpenter recorded the final two outs of the inning.
Kimbrel overcame Headley's leadoff homer in the ninth. After striking out Kyle Blanks and Tommy Medica , Kimbrel walked Cedeno. After pinch-runner Reymond Fuentes stole second base, Nick Hundley grounded out to end the game.
"We were one base hit from tying that game," Black said. "We were right there with them."
Erlin allowed two runs on eight hits and one walk in six innings.
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Justin Upton led off with a single and scored on a two-out single to left field by Chris Johnson , who had two hits.
The Braves were denied a chance to extend their lead in the fifth when Elliot Johnson hit a two-out single and stole second. Upton singled to right field and Johnson, trying to score from second, was thrown out on right fielder Chris Denorfia 's one-hop throw to the plate.
The Braves left the bases loaded in the seventh. Right-hander Dale Thayer , the Padres' third pitcher of the inning, struck out Evan Gattis to end the threat after Brad Boxberger and Tommy Layne combined to walk three batters.
San Diego's problems with walks continued in the eighth. With two outs, Andrelton Simmons doubled off Brad Brach , who then walked B.J. Upton and pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich . Brach struck out Elliot Johnson to end the inning.
There was a brief delay in the fifth inning when Medlen fouled a ball that hit home plate umpire Tom Hallion under his mask. The ball skimmed off catcher Nick Hundley 's helmet before hitting Hallion, who remained in the game after being checked by Braves assistant trainer Jim Lovell.
Venable made a diving catch of Elliot Johnson 's sinking liner in left-center in the first inning.
NOTES: Gonzalez said Braves OF Jason Heyward , who took batting practice for the second straight day, could be sent to the Braves' Instructional League in Florida next week. Heyward's right jaw was fractured when hit by a pitch from the Mets' Jonathon Niese on Aug. 21. ... B.J. Upton drew three walks. ... Braves RHP Brandon Beachy (inflammation right elbow) will begin light throwing on Monday or Tuesday. ... Teheran will try for his 13th win against Padres RHP Burch Smith on Sunday.