ATLANTA — Break out the peanut butter and honey. Kris Medlen is ready for another start. Only this time it's the biggest game of his career.
The right-hander, who didn't start the season in Atlanta's rotation, will deliver the first pitch today against the defending World Series champion Cardinals in the inaugural wild-card playoff game. The Braves couldn't have asked for anyone better in the winner-take-all format; they haven't lost a start by Medlen in more than two years.
Just stop reminding him about it.
"It's not me by myself," said Medlen, who always snacks on a peanut butter and honey sandwich before his starts. "I've given up four or five runs in a start, and guys pull it out for me. My name is in the books or whatever, but it's a team thing."
The Braves have won 23 consecutive starts by Medlen, a modern big-league record. He eclipsed the mark held by a pair of Hall of Famers, Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford.
In 12 starts this season, Medlen is 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA. He struck out 13 hitters in one game, 12 in another. In six of those appearances, he didn't give up an earned run.
Forced into the rotation by injuries and ineffective performances, he became baseball's hottest pitcher. He hardly looks the part, generously listed at 5 feet 10, and has a fastball that struggles to reach 90 mph. But he is especially bedeviling with his changeup, a pitch the organization ordered him to throw coming up through the minors.
"You can't help but notice when someone's having the amount of success that he's had," said Kyle Lohse, who will start for the Cardinals. "It's impressive what he's done. Obviously, the team plays very well behind him, and to be that consistently good to keep your team in games or win games says a lot about what kind of pitcher he is.
"I expect him to keep doing what he's been doing out there, and my job is to do the same thing that he's doing. Go out there and shut down their team."
2012 Team 2012 Vs. Opp.
Team Pitcher Time W-L ERA Rec. W-L IP ERA
St. Louis Lohse (R) 5:05 16-3 2.86 21-12 0-0 5.0 9.00
Atlanta Medlen (R) p.m. 10-1 1.57 12-0 0-0 5.2 4.76
TEAM REC-Team's record in games started by today's pitcher. VS OPP-Pitcher's record versus this opponent, 2011 statistics.
Cardinals (88-74) at Braves (94-68)
Season series: Braves won 5-1
Of note: The winner advances to face the NL East champion Nationals in a best-of-five series that begins Sunday. … Braves 3B Chipper Jones, who still has a flair for the dramatic, is trying to put off his retirement. … Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez is benching banged-up C Brian McCann, going with David Ross primarily for defense. … The Cardinals have power, with five 20-homer players (RF Carlos Beltran, 32; LF Matt Holliday, 27; 1B Allen Craig, 22; C Yadier Molina, 22; 3B David Freese, 20) for the first time. … Jason Motte (42 saves, tied for NL lead) is the first closer in Cardinals history to get all the team's saves.