Kris Medlen brushed aside the notion that his recent hot stretch has been a way to replace the injured Tim Hudson, or an attempt to replicate last season's dominant run in the second half.
But Medlen's performances lately have drawn attention, and they're coming at the right time again.
Medlen threw 7.1 scoreless innings on four hits with five strikeouts in a 2-1 win for the Atlanta Braves over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
Medlen has allowed three runs in his past 27.2 innings, spanning four starts. Over his past seven starts, he has a 1.65 ERA.
These types of outings are something the Braves have seen before; he was dominating down the stretch in 2012 and started the Wild Card game as a result. Now, those around the game are expecting another Game 1 start for Medlen in the playoffs.
In his scoreless outing against the Padres, he went to all three of his pitches early and worked with good secondaries. He threw 27 changeups, recording seven swinging strikes, and threw 20 curveballs with one swinging strike. Establishing all three were important against a righty-heavy Padres lineup.
"Tonight, even more than the past few, I established all three of my pitches pretty early," he said. "I don’t remember the last time I started a game with a changeup, but I knew I was going to have to establish all three. Usually, it takes a couple innings to get the curveball going, but it felt really good from the get-go."
Medlen induced 13 ground balls to two fly balls and five line drives, keeping the ball on the ground with a fastball commanded well and a curveball that leads to grounders. Although he faced seven right-handed batters, he maintained success with his changeup, recording five swinging strikes on the pitch against righties.
This is something Medlen has established all season. In fact, he has a higher whiff/swing ratio against right-handed batters, which he attributed to the pitch being a straight four-seam change.
Medlen had a 73 game score, tying his season high. To give an idea of how dominating he was down the stretch last year, Medlen surpassed that 73 game score five times in 12 starts last season.