Med Dog looks to get the Braves back on track
Seeing how Strasmus was only celebrated for five months this year, I’m sure most of you will not mind me opening this post by wishing you and yours a Happy Med Dog Day.
As Kris Medlen prepares to oppose Ross Detwiler in tonight’s series opener against the Nationals, lets go back to last weekend when Medlen was preparing to face the Mets at Citi Field. Minutes after entering the visitor’s clubhouse at Citi Field last Saturday, the lively and entertaining pitcher approached a few media members to show us some funny clips he had produced with the “Action Movie” app on his iPhone.
A few moments later Kevin McAlpin of the Braves Radio Network asked, “Have you ever seen a pitcher so relaxed on the day that he is starting?” After chuckling and shaking my head from side-to-side for a couple seconds, I said, “Yeah, (Greg) Maddux, but he had about 200 wins by the time I got to know him.”
This is not an entry to compare the talents of Med Dog and Mad Dog. To attempt to do so will seem ridiculous for at least a few more years. But there is no doubt that Medlen goes about his business much the same way that Maddux did.
Like Maddux, Medlen enjoys the challenge of getting inside a hitter’s head in attempt to keep him off balance. Over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly said that he likes the “chess match” that he encounters during games.
Like Maddux, Medlen is a good athlete who benefits from his ability to quite capably field his position.
And like Maddux, Medlen certainly knows how to keep the mood in the clubhouse light.
Fortunately for this current cast of Braves, Medlen does not seem to be as “gross” as Maddux was. Let’s just say they do not share the same concerns as Maddux’s teammates, who had to reach in the bin of sanitary socks with some concern that Maddux might have left them a gift inside.
OK, that’s enough of the Maddux memories.
This weekend’s series certainly does not possess the significance that was envisioned as recently as this past Sunday, when the Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Mets. Since then, their offense struggles worsened in Milwaukee and they were on the wrong end of a sweep that put them 8 1/2 games behind the Nationals in the National League East race.
With 18 games to play, winning a division title seems unrealistic. But that does not change the significance of this weekend’s three games against the Nationals.
The Braves were fortunate that they did not lose any ground in the Wild Card race while getting swept this week in Milwaukee. The three teams directly behind them in these standings – the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates – were all getting swept in their respective series at the same time.
But with the Cardinals and Dodgers now in the midst of a four-game series, the Braves would lose ground to one of these teams with each loss that they might incur this weekend. At the same time, they will assure themselves of gaining ground on at least one of these clubs with every win notched this weekend.
Entering tonight’s game, the Braves are five games in front of the second-place Cardinals in the Wild Card race. They have a seven-game advantage over the Dodgers, who right now would be the last team eliminated from the NL’s postseason picture.
But there is not any reason to get too comfortable yet. With 18 games to play last year, the Braves were 7 1/2 games in front of the Cardinals in these same standings.
While winning just 11 of their past 25 games, the Braves have batted .224 and averaged 3.1 runs per game. They have hit .152 (30-for-198) with runners in scoring position during this span.
After combining for 32 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the final two games of last weekend’s series against the Mets, they totaled just nine at-bats with runners in scoring position during this week’s series in Milwaukee.
Things are likely not going to get any easier this weekend as the Braves face two left-handed pitchers — Detwiler (Friday) and Gio Gonzalez (Sunday) – and Edwin Jackson.
Detwiler has gone 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his four starts against the Braves this year. Four of the 10 runs he surrendered in this span were scored during the seventh inning of his June 29 win in Atlanta. His lone loss came on Aug. 22, when he surrendered two runs in 5 1/3 innings and found himself on the wrong end of a matchup against Medlen.
If the Braves win tonight’s matchup against Detwiler, they will have won each of the past 20 games started by Medlen, who has posted a 0.81 ERA in the eight starts he has made this season.
Happy Med Dog Day