Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By JAY CLEMONS  |  Last updated 9/14/13
ATLANTA Here are three things we learned from the Braves'2-1 win over the Padres Atlanta's first seasonal victory over San Diego (in five tries). 1. Kris Medlen might have the best finishing kick of any National League pitcher this side of Clayton Kershaw Medlen was an efficient force for the Braves on Saturday, yielding four hits, two walks and zero runs, and striking out four batters over 7 13 innings. Digging deeper, the Atlanta righty encountered no more than five Padres hitter in any single frame. Of his last 10 outings (including a three-inning relief appearance in a marathon game with the Nationals), Medlen (14-12) has eight wins, a 2.46 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 5310 K-BB rate. Comparatively speaking ... from July 31 to Sept. 30 last year, spanning 12 starts and 83.2 innings, Medlen absurdly amassed a 9-0 record, 0.97 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 8410 K-BB ratio. And of the dozen starts, Atlanta had a spotless 12-0 record. Put it all together and the 2013 version of Medlen is making a strong case for starting Game 1 of the National League Division Series round at home against either the Cardinals, Pirates or Reds (wild-card winner). "He had an outstanding outing, mixing up his pitches really well. Had good command," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who nominated Medlen as "first star" in the post-game media scrum, using a hockey term. Of his 110 pitches (72 strikes), Medlen relied on a fastballslidercurveball combination, keeping the Padres hitters on their toes throughout the night. "I knew I had to establish all three (pitches)," recalled Medlen. "Usually, it takes a while to get my curveball going, but everything felt good tonight." As for Medlen peaking at the end of a season in back-to-back campaigns, he offered a direct response. "I've been trying to pitch like this all year it's just now starting to happen." He then added, "Whether I'm a 'second-half guy,' or whatever you want to call, I've clicked." 2. The Braves are now in position to officially claim the National League East title early next week With Atlanta's victory over San Diego and Washington's loss to Philly, the Braves' magic number has been sliced to four. That means, in a perfect world, the Braves could possibly clinch the division championship on Monday or Tuesday on the Nationals' home turf. Of course, Atlanta still needs to win on Sunday before the club can even think of placing that order for case after case of Dom Perignon (or whatever teams use to celebrate titles). Saturday's victory seemed to be a mere formality with Craig Kimbrel entering the game in the 9th, armed with a 2-0 lead and riding a scoreless streak that dated back to July 4. But things got a little tense, with Chase Headley leading off with a homer to right field. Three batters later, Ronny Cedeno walked and then stole second, positioning himself to log the tying run off a single. But Kimbrel closed the door, forcing a groundout to seal the win for the Braves (89-59). How great has Kimbrel been this season? Since May 9, Kimbrel has notched 37 saves, a 0.40 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 6816 K-BB rate. Upon learning that Kimbrel (career-best 47 saves) hadn't allowed a run since the July 4 game against the Marlins, Medlen exalted "Whatever!" with a big smile, as if anyone could produce a run like that, during baseball's most pressurized inning. 3. Apparently, Chris Johnson isn't giving up the NL batting title without a fight 'Heading into Saturday, Colorado's Michael Cuddyer (.335) owned a seven-pointbatting lead over Johnson and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen the dual result of Cuddyer hitting .465 for September ... and Johnson batting only .300 for the month. On this night, Johnson collected two hits to boost his average to .330; Cuddyer, in turn, dropped to .332 after going hitless against the Diamondbacks. "(Johnson) keeps getting a lot of good at-bats, he gives you a lot of quality at-bats night after night," gushed Gonzalez. "And those are some good signs (for the postseason)." So, what will be the 'magic number' for the batting title by season's end? My guess from early September was .329; but that tally might only be good enough for third place ... the way Johnson, McCutchen and Cuddyer are progressing. Speaking of McCutchen, his candidacy for National League MVP works on all angles satisfying numbers-based writers, eye test voters and those giving out 'sentimentality' bonus points to the best player from the year's best story the Pirates' rise from annual laughingstock to a viable World Series contender. For the year, McCutchen has 19 homers, 79 RBI, 90 runs, 27 steals, a .328 batting average and .407 on-base percentage; and of the last 30 days, the All-Star boasts absurd tallies of .380 hitting, .479 OBP, .560 slugging and a 1.039 OPS. And with those numbers, it's hard for Joey Votto (Reds), Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks), Matt Carpenter (Cardinals), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) or Freddie Freeman to make a big-time final push for MVP consideration. In the sixth inning, with the Braves nursing a 1-0 lead, Freeman launched a 1-0 delivery into the left-field seats his first opposite-field homer of the season (source: Baseball Reference). From a splits standpoint, Freeman (21 HR, 99 RBI, 80 runs, .314 batting, .389 OBP) has been a hallmark of consistency for the Braves, posting five months of four or more homers, five months of double-digit runs, five months of .300-plus batting and six months of double-digit RBI. And for those who want their MVP candidates to shine during crunch time, Freeman has the following September tallies: Four homers, 11 RBI, .343 batting and an OBP north of .385.
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