Here are three things we learned from Atlanta's 3-2 victory over Miami on Tuesday, before a subdued crowd at Marlins Park:
1. Just wait until Kris Medlen recaptures that late-season mojo of last year
From a distance, Medlen's cumulative numbers after two starts (1-1, 1.50 ERA) look superb. But he has yet to find a true groove with strikeout-to-walk ratio (45) or WHIP (1.42).
And let's be honest, the Marlins' lineup even with Giancarlo Stanton might be the least intimidating in all of baseball. Very little power. Marginal speed. Full of slap-hitting assets. Ugh.
That said, it's not Medlen's job to draft or sign the Miami roster, and he didn't fill out the Marlins' Tuesday lineup, either. He could only control the pace of his pitches and the tempo of his delivery; and from my vantage point, he appeared to be looser and more relaxed than last Thursday's losing duel with Phillies co-ace Cliff Lee.
Plus, the temperature at Marlins Park was roughly 45 degrees warmer than last week's raincoldugly outing at Turner Field.
As for the future, perhaps Medlen can begin another 20-start streak without taking a loss. The real proof's in the numbers, though: From July 31 to Sept. 30 last year, spanning 12 starts and 83.2 innings, Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) absurdly amassed a 9-0 record, 0.97 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 8410 K-BB ratio.
2. Evan Gattis seems at home behind the plate ... and when occupying the cleanup spot
With Freddie Freeman on the disabled list (oblique strain) and Jason Heyward getting a night of rest (minus the defensive cameo in ninth inning), Gattis a fringe-roster candidate in March turned April sensation announced his 4-hole authority early on, belting a homer off Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc in the first inning.
Gattis's blast may have fallen short of the million-dollar monstrosity beyond the left-center wall at Marlins Park, but it was the perfect tape-measure shot to excite a Braves fan base that has already embraced the legend of El Oso Blanco with open arms.
Speaking of arms, Gattis's Popeye-esque forearms and glove-less batting hands hearken one back to the black-and-white-film days of Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx (1925-45).
To clarify, no one expects Gattis the Braves' co-backup catcher with Gerald Laird in Brian McCann's absence to dominate pitchers like Foxx (534 homers, 1,922 RBI, .325 career average). But then again, Foxx never crushed his first MLB homer while his parents were simultaneously being interviewed on live television.
Jokes aside, Gattis's crouching-tiger approach to hitting gives Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez yet another stellar option at the 3-4-5-6 power slots, depending on the day and situation.
3. Craig Kimbrel offers very little hope to opposing hitters in the 9th
Of Kimbrel's four appearances in 2013, spanning four innings and four saves, only three batters have reached base, with none scoring. And like Tuesday's winning pitcher, Kris Medlen, Kimbrel doesn't appear to be anything close to peak form.
Strangely, that's a wonderful sign of progress for a 7-1 Braves team (winners of five straight) which understands 94 victories may be enough for a playoff berth ... but guarantees nothing about home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs.