"I've got to tip my hat to that pitcher," Davey Johnson told reporters, with that pitcher being the Atlanta Braves' Kris Medlen. "He pitched a hell of a ballgame. He's got a great curveball. He spotted his fastball. Great changeup. Nobody really saw him that good. I knew he was good, he just reaffirmed what I said earlier. He's a heck of a young pitcher." The Nationals had their chances against the 26-year-old Medlen. Ross Detwiler battled him in a tightly contested affair, impressing his manager with what he was able to accomplish with pretty much one pitch.
"[Detwiler] had an explosive fastball," Johnson said, "The only problem is he didn't use his other pitches, he just used his fastball. The second time around he was also getting the ball up, but he did have an unbelievably good fastball. When he stayed down he was pretty much overmatching. But you've still got to use your other pitches." Detwiler threw 4.0 scoreless that day, gave up two runs in the fifth and was out of the game in the sixth. Medlen threw 7.0 scoreless against Washington in the nation's capital that day, August 22, 2012, leading Atlanta to a 5-1 win with 7.0 scoreless innings on the mound.
"That young man pitched a heck of a ballgame against us," the Nats' skipper said after the loss. "We had the right people up at the right time and didn't get it done." The Nationals took two of three from the Braves in that series, however, before dropping the finale, and Washington held a 6.0 game lead over the NL East's second-place team from Atlanta after that series in D.C.
Medlen did it again last night.
Entering action in Turner Field in the first game of three for the Nationals in Atlanta, the right-hander had intimidating numbers as a starter, with an 0.81 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 0.85 WHIP, seven walks (1.13 BB/9) and 53 Ks (8.57 K/9) in eight starts and 55.2 IP since he moved from the pen to the rotation on July 31st. Medlen also had a 20-start win streak overall for his team when he took the mound which stretched back to early 2010. Medlen threw 7.0 innings again last night, giving up just one run on an opposite field home run by Bryce Harper, who connected with a hanging first-pitch curve in the sixth to break up the Braves' starter's bid for a shutout and tie the game at 1-1 after five and a half.
Harper's home run was the first the Braves' right-hander allowed a left-hander to hit this year. He shrugged the fluky (390 ft) blast off and retired six of the next seven batters on 23 pitches to keep it tied and end his night after having allowed just five hits, a walk and a run in 7.0 IP in which he struck out a career-high 13 batters. Atlanta would go on to win 2-1 on a groundout to short and a ball that was thrown away on a rushed walk-off fielder's choice. Ross Detwiler battled Medlen again, allowing seven hits and one run in 6.0 IP.
"Well, Det pitched a hell of a ballgame," Davey Johnson told reporters afterwards, "And you have to tip your hat to Medlen. He pitched another great game against us." The Nats' manager said he was once again impressed with what he saw from the Braves' '06 10th Round pick who is in his own first full-year back from Tommy John surgery he had in 2010. "I was really impressed again," Johnson said, "[He] used all his pitches, both sides of the plate. Good curveball, good changeup, smart, mixed his pitches up well, didn't stay in any pattern. He was good. Real good."
The Nationals' manager paused for a minute.
"So was my guy," Johnson continued, "I liked Det. Det showed me something. Going out there. Had some hard innings. Went back out there for the sixth. And threw a great game." The Nats' skipper explained that there was an exciting atmosphere in the game, with, "... a lot of energy from the fans," and something approaching a playoff atmosphere. "This kind of game," the manager explained, "There's a little more tension on it and [Detwiler] was in trouble in the fourth and fifth and got out of it. And then pitched a strong sixth, so... he was right at his pitch limit by then. But all the pitches up to then, they were tough pitches."
The Nationals have two more in Atlanta this weekend. This afternoon on FOX at 4:00 pm EDT and tomorrow night on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. After last night's loss, the Nats have a 7.5 game lead over the Braves in the NL East. After his 24th start (and 30th appearance overall) Ross Detwiler has a 3.16 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, 43 BB and 94 Ks in 151.0 IP so far this season. The '07 1st Round pick is heading into the most important stretch of starts he's made in his career and perhaps the first postseason start of his major league career. Detwiler was tested in a playoff-esque setting last night and he impressed his manager yet again. "It was good," Johnson said, "Good game for Det. We'll get them tomorrow."