Thursday night in Atlanta was as bitterly cold as it gets in the spring time. It was frigid and misty and just a yucky night to have to grip a baseball and throw it nearly 90 mph at a guy trying to hit it. Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen wouldn’t give any excuse for not having his best stuff against the winner of the game, Philadelphia Phillies starter Cliff Lee. Though he lost the game 2-0, Medlen proved in the process that the streak of last season was far from a fluke.
When the bases are loaded in the first inning you can bet something is a little off with the pitcher’s stuff. But that is what pitching is and what separates great pitchers from guys with great arms. Medlen clearly was battling with his control all night and it took double his usual amount of pitches at least to get through tough at-bats throughout the night. He kept battling though. Like Medlen himself said, if you would have said after the first inning that he would go five innings and give up only two runs, he would have thought you were crazy. Frankly, so would I.
The control wasn’t there but the fighting spirit was. You could almost see parts of Tim Hudson’s tenacious pitching style in Medlen as he refused to give up in spite of not being sharp. What he did was unbelievably keep the Braves in the game. The bullpen picked him up as well and the Braves opponent only scored twice though they had guys all over the bases. If that happens ten times, the Braves could have a few hits and come out on top in eight of them. The fact that they were not able to come back last night does not take away from the tremendous effort Medlen displayed.
Sure, he deserved the loss and his streak is over but he doesn’t care any more now than he did last season in the middle of it. Medlen cares about helping the Braves win games and with what he had to deal with last night, he did more than his job in holding the Phillies to two runs. It proves that he wasn’t just on some fluke roll last season. The guy can pitch. When his delivery is steady and he sticks his release point regularly again, he will dominate. Until then he will keep the Braves in games the way he is supposed to. He is closer to being an ace starter now than he was before the loss.