Kris Medlen hurls shutout in fourth start for Braves

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Kris Medlen was so impressive while filling in for Tommy Hanson that the Braves had already decided to go to a six-man rotation in anticipation of Hanson’s return this week. Tonight he ensured that someone else is going to the pen if they opt to return to five starters next month.

Making his fourth start after 38 relief appearances, Medlen pitched a shutout against the Padres on Thursday. Backed by two homers from Chipper Jones, he allowed five hits, walked none and struck out six in the 104-pitch gem.

Medlen had a 2.48 ERA as a reliever this season, but he’s been even more spectacular as a starter. He’s allowed just three runs in 25 2/3 innings to date, good for a 1.05 ERA. The Braves have won all four of his starts.

How Medlen will hold up as a starter is the big question mark. The Braves knew they were taking a risk when they shifted him from the rotation to the pen in 2010, and he ended up hurting his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was kept in the pen initially this year in part because the Braves were confident about their starters but also because they wanted to save wear and tear on his arm.

Still, there wouldn’t seem to be any going back now. Depending on how Hanson looks in his return and whether Ben Sheets and Paul Maholm can continue their surprising success, it’s possible Medlen will be the Braves’ second or third starter in the postseason, should the team advance.

Brewers-Pirates game postponed

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Wednesday night’s game at PNC Park between the Brewers and Pirates has been postponed, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. No makeup date has been announced yet. As Brink points out, the two clubs meet again in Pittsburgh September 21-23 and both have an off day on the 20th, so that could be a potential makeup date.

Brent Suter and Chad Kuhl were scheduled to square off on the mound. Their starts will likely be pushed back to Thursday. The Pirates will host the Diamondbacks and the Brewers will host the Cardinals.

The Cubs won on Wednesday afternoon, so the Brewers are tied with the Cubs for first place in the NL Central. The Pirates are seven games back in third place.