Kris Medlen was an afterthought. A bullpen arm or an emergency starter. A Tommy John casualty who, while likely figuring to be part of the back end of the Braves rotation one day, wasn’t supposed to be the ace. Certainly not in the 2012 pennant drive. But here we are.
Medlen extended his scoreless innings streak to 28 and a third innings last night, blanking the Padres for eight efficient innings. It was the 17th straight Medlen start the Braves have won, stretching back to 2010. That’s a bit of a gimmick stat given the time frame, but that’s the most consecutive starts a team has won for a dude since the Cardinals won 17 straight for Chris Carpenter back in 2005.
It’s worth noting, of course, that his recent hot stretch has coincided with starts against some less-than-threatening offenses. Since joining the rotation he’s faced the Marlins, the Astros, the Mets and the Padres twice. He did shut the Nationals out for seven innings, and the Padres offense, while not impressive overall, has been scoring a lot of runs of late, so it’s not nothing.
But you can’t pick your opponent, and obviously the important part of this is that the Braves biggest weakness this year — consistency in the rotation — has been squarely addressed by Medlen’s recent tear.
Also important: he works fast and throws strikes and that’s just aesthetically pleasing. Dear God why don’t more pitchers do that?
Earlier this month, Yankees starter CC Sabathia jawed at the Red Sox after Eduardo Nunez laid down a bunt. Sabathia fielded it fine, but threw the ball away for an error. After the game, he called Nunez’s bunt “weak” and said the Red Sox should “swing the bat.” Sabathia, of course, is not that limber these days. Along with being 37 years old, the lefty has also battled knee and hamstring issues this season.
The Twins apparently didn’t hear what Sabathia had to say about bunting. After Brian Dozier singled off of Sabathia to lead off the top of the first inning on Tuesday, Joe Mauer laid down a bunt on the third base side and reached safely. Jorge Polanco then laid down a bunt of his own, also on the third base side, and was initially ruled out, but after replay review was ruled safe to load the bases with no outs.
Fortunately for Sabathia, he was able to limit the damage, getting Eduardo Escobar to ground into a run-scoring 6-4-3 double play and inducing an inning-ending ground out from Byron Buxton. It’ll be interesting, though, to see if the Twins continue to bunt against Sabathia throughout the night.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta has been out over two weeks with a strained right hamstring, but he’s ready to return to action. The right-hander threw a bullpen on Tuesday and it went well, so he will start in Thursday’s series opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports.
Arrieta, 31, returns with a 14-9 record, a 3.48 ERA, and a 157/53 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. If he stays on schedule, he’ll make three starts through the end of the regular season, including the regular season finale on October 1 against the Reds.
Arrieta is expected to max out at 75-80 pitches on Thursday and will ramp up through the end of the month.