Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/9/13
Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, a game that offered more twists and turns than your standard outing of three combined runs: 1. Get ready for the first (and probably last) Bo JacksonKris Medlen comparison in sports history Most baseball fans recall that Jackson once a two-sport world-beater with MLB's Kansas City Royals and NFL's Los Angeles Raiders crushed a first-inning homer off Rick Reuschel in the 1989 All-Star Game, while eventually claiming game MVP honors, as well. It was a signature moment that, at the time, clinched Jackson's status as the No. 2 most popular athlete on the planet (behind Michael Jordan) and probably led to 20 million shoes (Nike Cross-Trainers) flying off the shelves worldwide. But few would remember that future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs homered immediately after Jackson, amid little or no fanfare. Fast forward to Saturday night: Roughly three minutes after Dan Uggla belted an 0-2 breaking pitch aka room-service curveball from Dodgers starter Stephen Fife, busting a scoreless tie, Kris Medlen strode to the plate and launched his first-ever homer in the majors (second professional dinger). On the play, the Braves pitcher executed a super-quick hip turn before smoothly jacking the ball over the right-field wall, to the surprise of many including Medlen, who momentarily lingered at second base (thinking it was a ground-rule double) before heading home, off the advice of Dodgers shortstop Nick Punto. The same Punto who, on Friday night, deked Jordan Schafer into a needless slide at second base, followed by a failed re-touch of the bageventual double play when hustling back to first base. For Medlen, who could not contain his glee in the Atlanta dugout after the unexpected blast, the hitting exhibition was the perfect capper to a near-flawless pitching outing that included just five hits and one walk allowed over 6 23 scoreless innings. He also used a forceful fastball and deadly accurate changeup to record six strikeouts. From a seasonal standpoint, don't be fooled by Medlen's middling 3-6 record. Saturday's shakedown of the Dodgers dropped his ERA to a highly respectable 2.87; and since May 2, spanning 48 innings, Medlen has surrendered just three or less earned runs for all eight starts. As for Uggla ... he can quietly take solace in two things: The fifth-inning moon shot off Fife (seven strikeouts in 6 23 innings) broke a homerless drought of 13 days; plus, it was the turning point for the Braves (38-24) ending a two-game mini-slide. 2. Craig Kimbrel is the gift that keeps on giving during pressure situations Of his 11 outings since May 9, covering 11 innings, Kimbrel is a perfect 8 for 8 in save chances (with one victory), including Saturday's successful closing act against the Dodgers. On this day, Kimbrel allowed a seeing-eye single to leadoff man Skip Schumaker, before retiring three straight hitters to seal the deal. And of the three outs, two came by way of strikeouts with both batters (catchers Tim Federowicz, Ramon Hernandez) being overwhelmed by out-of-strike-zone fastballs to end the at-bats. It was a sight eerily reminiscent to Kimbrel's dominance from the 2011 and '12 campaigns, when he posted cumulative tallies of 7-4, a 1.61 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and absurd 24346 K-BB ratio. For 2013, Kimbrel has a 1.87 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP and only six walks allowed on his resume numbers befitting of a third consecutive All-Star appearance next month. 3. Justin Upton, uh, picked a good time to endure a sustained rough patch at the plate From the ham-and-egger reserve to the marquee star, no major leaguer is immune from the occasional slump over a long baseball season. It's a natural occurrence, with little rhyme or reason to it. But Upton's recent downturn (two homers, 11 RBI for MayJune) is particularly noteworthy for two reasons: Since April 29, the last day of Upton claiming a batting average above .300, the Braves have tallied a 23-15 record; and within that span, Atlanta has picked up divisional ground on all four challengers in the National League East. On April 29, the Braves maintained respective leads of 3.5 (Nationals), 4.5 (Phillies), 5.5 (Mets) and 9.5 (Marlins). As of June 8, the gaps have mushroomed to 6.5 (Philly), 7.0 (Washington), 11.5 (New York) and 20.5 (Miami). Without a doubt, it's a concern that Upton's batting average has plunged 52 points in the last 40 days. Just like it's a little unsettling to post considerably more strikeouts (42) than hits (26) during that span. But there's evidence to support an imminent turnaround, as well, starting with Upton's capacity for 20 homers, 20 steals, 90-plus runs and .280 batting in his final four seasons with Arizona (2009-12). And let's not forget one other crucial development: This April and May marked the first time in Upton's established career that he notched 16 or more walks in consecutive months. That kind of healthy plate discipline invariably leads to more periods of batting excellence.
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