The Atlanta Braves have won 23 straight games that pitcher Kris Medlen has started, breaking a record shared by Whitey Ford and Carl Hubbell. If they don’t win one more, their season is over.
None of Medlen’s 30 career starts has been more important than his playoff debut today, when the Braves host the defending World Series-champion St. Louis Cardinals in a National League wild-card game in Atlanta. Medlen is scheduled to throw the first pitch at 5:07 p.m. Eastern time.
Another victory behind Medlen would send the Braves into a best-of-five division series against the Washington Nationals, who had the best record in Major League Baseball and finished four games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East. If the Braves lose, their season is over and the Cardinals move on.
“It’s your goal to win the game, no matter how,” Medlen said at a news conference yesterday. “This whole year, it’s not about me; I’ve given up four or five runs in a start and guys kind of pull it out for me. My name is in the books, but it’s a team thing. I didn’t do it all by myself, that’s for sure.”
The Texas Rangers host the Baltimore Orioles in today’s American League wild-card game, with the winner advancing to face the New York Yankees, who had the best record in the AL. The Rangers-Orioles game will begin at 8:37 p.m. Eastern time.
After today’s one-and-done wild-card games, the division series begin tomorrow, when the Oakland Athletics visit the Detroit Tigers at 6:07 p.m. Eastern time. That’s followed by the San Francisco Giants hosting the Cincinnati Reds in the NL series, with a scheduled 9:37 p.m. Eastern time first pitch.
Medlen has started 12 times for the Braves this season while also making 38 relief appearances and is 10-1 with a 1.57 earned run average. His streak of consecutive starts won by the Braves dates back to 2010, four years after the team drafted the 26-year-old right-hander out of high school with a 10th-round pick.
Since moving into the Braves’ starting rotation on July 31, Medlen has gone 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts. His second-half performance has elicited comparisons to a pitcher who won three of his four Cy Young Awards in Atlanta.
“He’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Greg Maddux in the past 10 to 12 years,” said former All-Star pitcher Dan Plesac, who’s now a baseball analyst for the MLB Network. Maddux helped the Braves win the World Series in 1995.
Ford, a Hall of Fame member and former Cy Young winner who spent 16 seasons with the New York Yankees, from 1950-53 had a streak of 22 straight starts in which the Yankees won.
Hubbell, also a Hall of Famer and two-time NL Most Valuable Player, also had a run of 22 starts in which the New York Giants didn’t have a loss from 1936-37.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the coaching staff decided two to three weeks ago that they’d start Medlen in a potential wild-card game over Tim Hudson, who led the team with 16 wins this season.
“I don’t think Meddy is going to step on the rubber and say, ‘Wow, I’m pitching Game 7, which is basically what we’ve talked about -- we’ve got one game,” Gonzalez said yesterday at a news conference. “Win or lose, he’s going to be the same guy. I don’t think he’s going to spook.”
The Braves are listed as a -165 money line favorite, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, meaning a bettor would have to risk $165 to win $100. A winning $100 bet on the Cardinals, who go with starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, would return a $155 profit.
Yu Darvish is the starting pitcher in today’s AL game for the two-time AL-champion Rangers, who are the -190 money line favorite at home. The Orioles counter with Joe Saunders in their first playoff appearance in 15 years and are +180 underdogs, meaning a winning $100 wager on Baltimore would return $180 plus the initial stake.
The Cardinals and Tigers are the only two teams in the postseason to have a losing record in road games this season. St. Louis went 38-43 away from home, including losing two of three games in Atlanta in May, and was 1-5 against the Braves.
“I’m going to approach it the same as every other start,” Medlen said. ‘I’ve had 12 other starts this year and they really don’t matter anymore. It’s a Game 7 mentality and you just go out and don’t talk, you just do.’’