Posted September 13, 2012 on
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Just in the last few days, the Washington Nationals have turned an NL East title from a likelihood to a near certainty.
The Atlanta Braves, meanwhile, may want to start considering Kris Medlen for a potential one-game wild-card playoff.
Medlen will look to shut down the Nationals again Friday night as these teams open a three-game set in Atlanta, with the Braves likely needing a sweep to maintain even a slim chance at the division.
Washington (89-54) pushed its lead from 5 1/2 games to a season-high 8 1/2 this week, sweeping New York while the Braves were swept at Milwaukee. Things are going so well that even Stephen Strasburg's replacement in the rotation, John Lannan, pitched into the sixth inning of Wednesday's 2-0 victory.
For a franchise that has reached the postseason once in more than four decades - in 1981 as the Montreal Expos - the magic number is 11 for clinching the division and even lower for a playoff berth.
"Oh, I look at them," manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals' official website. "It's time to be looking at magic numbers. And I've been looking at them for a while now."
The Braves (81-63) still comfortably control the NL's top wild-card spot, although they'd like to see some improvement from an offense that has scored three or fewer runs eight times in nine games. Atlanta totaled three runs in three games against the Brewers, managing five hits in an 8-2 defeat Wednesday.
Medlen (8-1, 1.64 ERA) hasn't needed much support since entering the rotation July 31. He is 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA in eight starts in 2012, and the Braves have won his last 19 starts dating to 2010.
"He pitches and it seems like the guys like playing behind him," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Saturday's outing against the Mets was the first time Medlen has allowed more than one run as a starter this year. He gave up two along with four hits in six innings as Atlanta cruised to an 11-3 win.
In his first career start against Washington, Medlen scattered seven hits over seven scoreless innings and struck out seven in a 5-1 road victory Aug. 22.
"He was mixing really well, his fastball was good," said right fielder Bryce Harper, 0 for 4 against Medlen this year. "He was throwing his curve ball and changeup. You just try and do the best you can against a guy like that. Nothing you can do but tip your cap."
Ryan Zimmerman managed two hits off Medlen in that game, and he brings a 16-game hit streak into Friday. He has six homers and 17 RBIs in that stretch, while Ian Desmond is batting .405 with four homers during a 10-game run.
Ross Detwiler (9-6, 3.23) kept the Nationals in the game against Medlen last month, but opposing him again may not be the best way to become Washington's fourth 10-game winner.
The left-hander already had one chance to do that, but he allowed five runs in five innings of a 7-6, 10-inning victory over Miami on Saturday. Detwiler yielded a pair of homers, matching his total from his previous 11 starts.
This will be his fifth start of the year against the Braves. He's 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in the first four, although he can't seem to find a way to get Martin Prado out. Prado is 8 for 10 with four doubles and a triple against Detwiler in 2012.
The Nationals, 5-1 in Atlanta this year, will likely be without Michael Morse, who is dealing with an injured left wrist.
BEST OF MAXIM
ATLANTA The confidence never left Kris Medlen.
Not when he had Tommy John surgery.
Not when he missed nearly an entire season while rehabbing his right elbow.
And not when he started this season in the Braves' bullpen.
That's just how he thinks, how he attacks life.
It's not cockiness or arrogance. He just thinks he can beat you.
Medlen is the guy with the straight...
The Washington Nationals earned win No. 88 on the season Tuesday night against the New York Mets and moved yet another game closer to clinching the National League East with the come-from-behind 5-3 victory.
But if there was anything at all to be gleaned from starter Jordan Zimmermann's 29th outing, it's that Washington's seemingly inevitable first division title may...
actual screencap of newsletter
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...Well, you're not wrong. ;)
We'll see how the off-season goes.
Keep the champagne on ice when the Washington Nationals inevitably clinch a wild card berth in the next few days:
"That’s not a big moment. It’s a nice moment, but it’s not a big moment. The additional wild card, to me, just really put more of a burden on the manager, because nobody wants that one. A one-game playoff to get in? The other format, if you were...
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As the Nationals approach the postseason with one of the best records in the game, they’ll be second guessed time and again for their decision to cut off one of the...
MILWAUKEE With legendary Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones likely playing in his final game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the organization, like many others around the league, presented him with a gift for his longevity and effect on the game he played for 19 years.
So naturally, being that it is Milwaukee, after all, the Brewers' racing sausages drove a cart over...
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NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals didn't need Stephen Strasburg to subdue the stumbling New York Mets. John Lannan filled in for what was initially scheduled to be Strasburg's final start with 5 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday night, and four relievers finished off a 2-0 win for Washington. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond homered for the Nationals, who swept the three...
Video: Great catch by the Braves superstar
It’s been a while since I’ve posted this feature, so I apologize to those of you who have asked for it in the past. The last week has been filled with ups and downs for the Washington Nationals. Stephen Strasburg had his season end a start early as he had a terrible game on Friday against the Marlins, where he only lasted three innings and gave up five runs.
Left fielder Michael Morse is out of the starting lineup for the Washington Nationals' game against the New York Mets after he was diagnosed with a torn cuff and a bone bruise in his left wrist.
Morse injured his right thumb Aug. 13 during an at-bat in San Francisco. Nationals manager Davey Johnson says Morse may have overcompensated with his left hand after that injury.
Spare me while I talk about my team for a moment. I almost missed out on my head to head playoffs. Another team grabbed the final spot one week before the postseason was to begin. Oh no, it was that mean old Mr. McGaragle, and he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that Medlen Kris (and that dumb dog!) Yes, Kris Medlen continued his brilliance last night pitching...