Looking to win a season-high fifth straight start, Medlen tries to help the visiting Braves secure their first division title in eight years Saturday against the Chicago Cubs .
Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman homered and drove in a combined five runs as Atlanta (91-62) trimmed its magic number to clinch the East to one with Friday's 9-5 victory. Andrelton Simmons added two RBIs for the Braves, who can also clinch if Washington loses to Miami.
"It's been a fun season," Friday's starter Paul Maholm said. "We started off real hot and built a big lead, we cooled off a bit, lost some people, but we were able to maintain that big lead. Hopefully, we'll go deep in the playoffs."
The Braves haven't won the division since 2005, their last of 11 consecutive first-place finishes.
"This might be the best group of guys in terms of resiliency," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "They battle. They're a talented group of guys - let's not forget that - but we've gone through some adversity at times, losing some key players earlier in the year and a leader on our pitching staff.
"It's a good group of guys; just a good team."
Medlen (14-12, 3.32 ERA) has been especially good of late, posting a 0.98 ERA during his four-start winning streak. The right-hander allowed four hits over 7 1-3 scoreless innings to beat San Diego 2-1 last Saturday.
"He knows how to pitch," Padres manager Bud Black told MLB's official website. "His fastball had action in the hitting area, he has a tremendous changeup. He's their guy. They're headed to the playoffs and I suspect that he will be their first-game pitcher."
Medlen, who went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts down the stretch in 2012, is 8-1 in his last nine starts.
"Whether I'm a second-half guy or whatever it is, I just feel like I've clicked," he said.
Medlen has gone 1-0 while throwing 7 2-3 scoreless innings of relief in five career appearances against the Cubs (64-90).
Loser in eight of 10 overall, Chicago has dropped five straight to Atlanta, including all four matchups this year by a 24-12 margin. Starlin Castro , Donnie Murphy and Dioner Navarro homered Friday before Kevin Gregg gave up four runs in the ninth inning.
Gregg, who was under the impression he had been removed from the closer's role in favor of Pedro Strop , may have played his final game in a Cubs uniform after expressing his frustrations to the media. He is 2-5 with 32 saves and a 3.45 ERA.
"Apparently Kevin misunderstood (manager) Dale (Sveum) and thought he'd had his job permanently taken away from him," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "He apparently had some choice words. ... I told him that I'd sleep on it and let him know if he was released in the morning."
Starter Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05) will try to help the Cubs bounce back. The left-hander, who is 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts, allowed two runs in six innings but didn't receive a decision in Sunday's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh.
Wood, who has never faced the Braves, is 0-4 with a 5.64 ERA in his last five outings at Wrigley Field.
Atlanta's Jason Heyward went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run Friday in his first game back since missing a month with a fractured jaw. He is 6 for his last 44 (.136) against the Cubs.
|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 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 21, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|September 19, 2013||Welington Castillo||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|August 08, 2013||Matt Guerrier||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|August 08, 2013||Thomas Neal||60-Day DL||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Thomas Neal||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Dioner Navarro||Day-to-Day||Right ankle contusion|
|August 03, 2013||Luis Valbuena||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves were in position to celebrate a division championship. Instead, they left themselves with another wait.
Dioner Navarro hit a tiebreaking single in a three-run eighth inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat Atlanta 3-1 Saturday to keep the Braves on the brink of the NL East title.
Atlanta's magic number remained at one to clinch its first division title since 2005. Second-place Washington was rained at at home against Miami later Saturday.
"Waiting game again," Gerald Laird said. "It's kind of weird."
The Braves found themselves again hoping the Marlins would beat the Nationals. Had Miami done that on Friday, the title would have been assured.
Instead, the Braves were trying to wrap up the division themselves. Then, the Cubs staged a late rally.
"It was nice not to have to see (a celebration) in person," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said.
Starlin Casto singled off Kris Medlen with one out in the eighth, pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy singled against Scott Downs (2-1) and Anthony Rizzo hit a tying double down the left-field line.
Navarro singled in the go-ahead run against David Carpenter , and Nate Schierholtz added a sacrifice fly.
"They just made some good swings," Laird said. "Rizzo went out and got that ball, hit it down the line. Dioner hit that slider down and in. You've got to tip your cap to them."
Medlen held Chicago to one run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings after going 4-0 with an 0.98 ERA in his previous four starts.
"It's tough, but I'm a former bullpen guy, and I know how tough that job is," Medlen said. "The dudes do their best. They've carried us the entire year, so these things happen and nobody in this clubhouse is panicking at all or anything. Credit their pitcher with keeping the game close, too. (Travis) Wood's having a great year. I felt it all game. I felt like it was in my hands, and the game was over. I had all the confidence in the world in myself and I just tried making pitches."
Carlos Villanueva (7-8) relieved Wood with two on and no outs in the eighth after Justin Upton doubled and Freddie Freeman walked. Villanueva induced a double-play grounder by Chris Johnson and a flyout by Evan Gattis .
Pedro Strop struck out the side in the ninth for his first save in four chances.
Atlanta went ahead in the fourth when Freeman walked and scored on Gattis' single. But B.J. Upton also struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the rally.
Wood settled down after that, allowing one run, five hits and four walks in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
"I had pretty command of most my pitches, being able to locate my fastball and getting the cutter on their hands and get some early swings and some quick outs," Wood said. "Just that last inning kind of got away from me quick. I really wanted to go out there and finish it strong and maybe overtried a little bit and left a pitch over that Upton could hit and Freeman battled me."
NOTES: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said OF Jason Heyward "was feeling great," a day after Heyward returned from the disabled list. Heyward was not in the lineup on Saturday after going 0 for 2 with a walk in his first appearance since breaking his jaw on Aug. 21 because of a broken jaw. ... The Cubs unveiled a logo to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field in 2014. It shows the ballpark's familiar marquee and facade with "100 years 1914-2014." The logo, which will be featured as a patch on the team's home uniform next season, was submitted by Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, as part of a fan contest before the season. ... RHP Julio Teheran (12-8, 3.14 ERA) starts Sunday for Atlanta, with RHP Edwin Jackson (8-16, 4.75) pitching for Chicago.