Found August 13, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
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ATLANTA -- Taking three cuts as the Braves rode Chris Johnson's two-run home runs and Kris Medlen's arm and bat to a 3-1 victory over the Phillies Tuesday at Turner Field. 1. Medlen most certainly has his swagger back With a 14 12-game lead in the National League East, the last thing the rest of baseball wants to see is the Braves getting even better. But with Kris Medlen again looking like the pitcher who owned the last two months of 2012, it's looking like a distinct possibility. "His stuff has been a lot crisper," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "His fastball ... it's got a little giddyup in the end of the last five or six (starts), his changeup has been down and his curveball has some tight rotation to it. It's nice to see." After allowing back-to-back singles to Michael Young and Chase Utley, Medlen would go on to retire 15 straight Phillies and 16 of 17. He left after seven innings, yielding one run while scattering five hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Combined with last Wednesday's win over the Nationals, that gives Medlen a 2.57 ERA and 0.714 WHIP with an 11:2 strikeout: walk ratio. It also gives him four straight wins as he gets to 10-10, the first time he's been at .500 since April 9. "I felt like I've been locating better and my changeup's been pretty good and I've been throwing some pretty good curveballs," Medlen said. "I think having that third pitch is pretty huge for me and having that out pitch and a pitch I can throw for a strike." It's the changeup that proved his biggest weapon against the Phillies. He used it to strikeout Cody Asche on a full count in the fourth, Erick Kratz in the fifth and Casper Wells in the seventh. An increased dependency on it as an out pitch has Medlen falling more in line with his '12 tendencies as he saved 16.6 runs based on wCH (changeup runs above average) with the changeup last season, the most of any of his three main pitches. So far this year, that number is at 7.0. But he's shown his biggest improvement with that aforementioned curveball. While his wCB is at just 1.8, the previous two games vs. the Nationals and Aug. 2 vs. Philadelphia, those numbers were at 2.96 and 4.20 respectively. Every indication is that Medlen is gaining more confidence in his arsenal, or as Gonzalez so succinctly put it, "he's been nails." 2. Pastornicky has his chance to fill the Braves' last void Tyler Pastornicky was taking batting practice Tuesday afternoon in Gwinnett when word came that he would be replacing Dan Uggla in the Braves lineup. In an Atlanta uniform again, how he handles this chance could be key in how the team handles its roster over these final weeks. With utility infielder Ramiro Pena out and Uggla gone possibly until September after his impending Lasik eye surgery, does Pastornicky, see this as a chance to distance himself from fellow utility player Paul Janish and show the Braves they need not look elsewhere for another bench piece as the postseason nears? "Definitely," he said. "All I can do is what I can control and that's go out there and play hard and hopefully play well and keep things rolling." Pastornicky has had three previous stints with the Braves this season, hitting .292.320.333 in 18 games with one extra base hit and zero RBI. That average, even in a small sample size, is 106 points higher than Uggla, who has MLB's lowest average among qualified hitters (.186), while Janish his zero hits in nine at-bats. From a "major league average" standpoint, Pastornicky doesn't make for a huge upgrade defensively. But Uggla has been trending downward with minus-13 defensive runs saved in 2011, four in 2012 and minus-14 this season and Pastornicky has one DRS in 32 innings at second. It's an area he says he has concentrated on improving this season. "(I just want to) show I can play consistent defense," he said. "I think that's been a knock on me and I think I'm capable of doing it. I've just got to go out there, have fun and do what I can do." While Janish is largely regarded as a superior defender compared to Pastornicky, he has just one DRS in 37 innings at third base, zero at second and zero at shortstop. Though Gonzalez's faith in him was evident when it came time for Craig Kimbrel to close things out: it was Janish and not Pastornicky that was playing second as the defensive substitute. Pastornicky doesn't supply much pop, with two career home runs. By comparison, Uggla has played just four full months in his eight-year career in which he's hit two or less HRs. It's why Uggla will surely reclaim the spot when he returns and why Atlanta could still look elsewhere. But from a complete player standpoint, Pastornicky is an intriguing piece. Uggla's DL stint at least gives him a chance to keep the Braves from looking elsewhere and show he's the solution to their only perceived area of need. 3. And they can hit, too Standing on second base the former shortstop fist-bumped first base coach Terry Pendleton after an RBI double that was his third extra base hit of the season, tying him with Julio Teheran for the lead among Braves pitchers. "Martin's got some pretty good stuff," Medlen said. "I got myself into a 3-2 count where I was just trying to get the head out on a pretty hard fastball." For Medlen, it was part of a 1 for 2 night with a walk as he improved to .200 and pushed the Braves' staff average to .159, third highest in the National League. They're also tied for first in the NL with 11 extra base hits in all. Only one of Atlanta's pitchers with eight or more at-bats this season is below the league average of .135 in Paul Maholm (.116), while the rest, Medlen, Teheran (.244), the injured Tim Hudson (.158) and Mike Minor (.152). Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood remain hitless in eight and 13 at-bats, respectively.
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