Braves pitcher Kris Medlen was already taking a fair share of confidence into the National League Division Series, when he’s expected to start Game 1 Thursday night against Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw.
Medlen is coming off an eight-inning, two-hit performance in a 1-0 win over Cliff Lee and the Phillies Friday night and is “flying high” as he put it after the game.
Then came Monday’s announcement that he’d won National League pitcher of the month for September.
Medlen went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts in September, while holding opponents’ to a .197 batting average. He allowed only four earned runs in 36 innings to lead the NL in ERA for the month, while posting a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). That tied Zack Greinke, likely to be the Dodgers’ Game 2 starter, for fourth in the NL.
“I’ve felt great the last couple months,” Medlen said. “And the team has played great behind me.”
Winning the award provides a indication of how similarly Medlen is pitching at this point in the season as he was during his record-setting 2012, when he won back-to-back pitcher-of-the month awards in August and September. The Braves had won 23 straight starts by Medlen, the longest streak in major league history, before the streak ended in a 2-0 loss to the Phillies to open his 2013 season.
Medlen started this season 1-6 despite a 3.48 ERA, but finished at 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA. He set new career-highs in wins (15), starts (31) innings (197) and strikeouts (157) in his first full season in the rotation.
“Just confidence and simplifying,” Medlen said. “You think that you have to figure everything out in the middle of a game, and that’s (what I was doing) when I was struggling, middle of the year. … I just worked on what I needed to work on in between (starts) and just focused on getting that guy out on that pitch and throwing everything with conviction and confidence. (I) just kind of rolled.”
Medlen has made seven straight quality starts, while going 5-2 with a 1.29 ERA since August 23. Since Tim Hudson broke his ankle and was lost for the season on July 24, Medlen has gone 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA. One of the losses came in three emergency innings of relief in a 15-inning game against the Nationals.