Odds and ends from a celebratory evening and Medlen’s historic streak
By now you have likely read the recap of last night’s playoff-clinching victory and celebration. You also likely have read about the historical significance of the fact that the Braves have now won each of the past 22 games started by Kris Medlen. And if you are a true Braves fan who has had no desire to even attempt to focus on work today, you have likely read 10 Reasons Why The Braves Are Heading to the Postseason.
Last night’s thrilling ninth-inning conclusion quite simply added to the many “Wow” moments we have experienced while following this year’s Braves club. The fact that they erased a ninth-inning deficit against the Marlins was not surprising. But the manner in which the ninth inning unfolded was special.
Sticking with the plot that has unfolded during Chipper Jones’ magical final season, Jones would have been the one to once again deliver the decisive blow. But last night had to do with much more than Jones. It was an evening reserved for a team to celebrate the clinching of the opportunity it had squandered one year earlier.
And once it unfolded, it all made sense after Jones began the bottom of the ninth by busting out of the box and hustling into second base with a double.
As soon as Freddie Freeman’s walk-off home run cleared the center field wall, I had a vision of him slamming his helmet to the ground after grounding into a double play to end last year’s 13-inning, must-win regular season finale against the Phillies.
As the Braves sprayed each other with champagne last night, they celebrated a trip to the postseason and exorcised more of the demons that had haunted them since they went 9-19 and blew a 9 1/2-game lead in the Wild Card standings last year. That epic collapse concluded with Craig Kimbrel blowing a one-run, ninth-inning lead and Freeman grounding into the double play to end a 4-3 loss to the Phillies.
One year later, Kimbrel earned the win and Freeman delivered the decisive blast in a 4-3 win over the Marlins. The baseball gods have a funny way of making sure this kind of stuff happens.
Now the Braves will focus on attempting to win the National League East. If they are unable to do so, they want to at least force the Nationals to feel some stress over the remainder of this season.
The Braves trail the first-place Nationals with eight games to play. According to the Baseball Prospectus playoff probabilities shown now within MLB.com’s standings, the Braves have a 5.9 percent chance to win the NL East. With eight games remaining last year, coolstandings.com projected the Cardinals to have an 18.1 percent chance to overtake the Braves in the Wild Card standings.
Perfection might not even be enough for the Braves to overtake the Nationals with just a week remaining. But there is no doubt that their schedule is much more favorable. While the Braves will spend the remainder of this year playing against the Marlins, Mets and Pirates, the Nationals will play the Cardinals and five more games against a Phillies team that has made it known they are not fans of Natitude.
Before wrapping this up, let’s take a look at how many times the Braves have come close to losing a game started by Medlen during this 22-game streak.
Before hitting two home runs within a span of three at-bats off Medlen last night, Donovan Solano had compiled 254 career at-bats without a home run. His second — a two-run shot in the seventh inning — gave the Marlins a one-run lead for two innings.
The ONLY other time the Braves trailed in a game started by Medlen this year came after he allowed a run in the first inning of his first start of the season against the Marlins on July 31. The Braves came back to score three runs in the bottom half of the first inning.
The Braves actually trailed in nine of the 11 games included in this Medlen streak from the 2010 season. On a couple of occasions they trailed for just an inning or two. But there were also some incredible finishes during the early stages of this streak.
The Braves trailed the Phillies by two runs until exploding for six runs in the sixth against Cole Hamels on July 7, 2010. Two weeks later, they trailed the Marlins 5-2 before erupting for eight runs in the eighth inning. During Medlen’s next start, Jason Heyward produced a two-run double that provide a 10-inning win in Cincinnati.
And before last night, there were two other walk-off victories during this streak. Troy Glaus began the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run to beat the Royals on June 19, 2010. A more dramatic conclusion developed two weeks later when Omar Infante erased an 11th-inning deficit with a two-run walk-off single against the Marlins.