Atlanta Braves' Kris Medlen, right, hits a solo home run as Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Stephen Fife looks on during the fifth inning of their baseball game, Saturday, June 8, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LOS ANGELES — A day after he hit his first major league home run and threw a career-high 116 pitches in 6-2/3 scoreless innings, Medlen was still smiling and answering questions Sunday about his big night at Dodger Stadium, which he frequented while growing up in nearby Norwalk.
Medlen, 27, became a first-time father this year but still looks like a kid, especially when he’s in uniform and the bill of his cap is table-flat in the style that Southern California kids favored long before it gained popularity elsewhere.
Medlen’s fifth-inning homer proved to be the decisive run in the Braves’ 2-1 win, and he joined Hudsona and Minor to give the Braves three pitchers with home runs in the same season –for the first time since Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Kevin Millwood did it in 1999.
The homer was Medlen’s second as a professional – the other came in his first Double-A start in 2008 – and only his fifth major league RBI and third extra-base hit. When he hit it, he threw his bat down in anger and cursed, thinking he had not hit the ball squarely and that it would be a routine flyball.
“I thought I just missed it,” he said Sunday, explaining the reaction that some others who saw the replay had misinterpreted. “It looks like I pimped it. Rossy (former Braves catcher David Ross) texted me, ‘Yeah, man, you pimped it.’ No. I just thought I missed it. I threw my bat.”
When he got to second base, Medlen still wasn’t sure and stopped to ask the umpire if it had bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. No, he was told, it was a home run.
He got it together quickly enough to remember to do something he had thought about doing if he ever got the chance – he flashed the “I love you” sign-language message to his family as he crossed home plate, just as retired Braves icon Chipper Jones did for years when he crossed the plate after home runs.
“I Chipper’d my family,” Medlen said, smiling. Of his recovery during the eventful home-run trot, he said: “Yeah, from second base on it was sweet – a solid trot. But that (home to second base) was kind of a circus.”
Former Braves are likely to dominate the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014 more than any team has in quite a while, and Bobby Cox could get the ball rolling Monday when the Veterans Committee announces its selections.