The Braves offense, it seems, just needed a vacation from the Phillies pitching staff. A little warm air and a tropical breeze in Miami didn’t hurt either, particularly where the Marlins had no one suiting up named Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.
The Braves broke out of their Phillies-induced slump with a five-run fourth inning Monday night and used it to hold on for a 5-2 victory against the Marlins.
“We’re just trying to get in the right direction,” said Evan Gattis, who doubled in two runs in the fourth after a weekend in which he came up just once with a runner in scoring position. “It’s good to ease up, relax and just get back to winning baseball games.”
The Braves recorded all five of their runs and hits in that fourth inning, but it was good enough to snap a four-game losing streak and lower their magic number to eight with 19 games to play.
Kris Medlen (13-12) moved over .500 for the first time all season after allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings for his sixth straight quality start. Medlen is 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA in his past nine outings, including those eight starts, since July 28.
“Now it’s pretty fun to look back and see that I started 1-6 and kind of turned things around,” Medlen said. “They had a huge inning for me today. That’s kind of what’s gotten me to this point this year. Me trying to put up zeros and the team scoring runs for me.”
The Braves’ five-run frame the second time through the order against right-hander Henderson Alvarez was two more runs than the Braves had scored in 16 innings over the weekend against the Phillies’ two left-handers.
Once the Braves started “the line moving” in the fourth inning, as manager Fredi Gonzalez calls it, they didn’t want to stop. Six out of seven batters reached, including the first five in a row. Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Gattis got it started with three consecutive doubles, the last of which netted two runs on Gattis’ double down the third base line.
“I think early on maybe we weren’t necessarily getting any production but we were wearing (Alvarez) down a little bit,” said Elliot Johnson, who drove in the fourth run of the inning on an RBI single. “It seemed like guys were having good at-bats, putting together a lot of pitches every at-bat, making him work for the outs not just giving him outs. I think that contributed.”
By the second time through, Johnson indicated, Alvarez didn’t have quite as much on his fastball, which was registering 98 mph in the early innings.
“That second time around everybody had a much better feel,” Johnson said. “…Gattis coming up with a huge double really got things rolling right there and built the momentum from there.”
Gattis continues to impress in his September “call-up.” His two-run double He’s gone 7-for-21 with two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs in six games since returning from a weekend stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Medlen allowed three singles by Chris Coghlan and little else through his first six shutout innings. The Marlins rallied for two runs in the seventh and ended Medlen’s night on a two-run Ed Lucas double, before Coghlan could strike again. Luis Avilan gave up a fourth hit to Coghlan – matching his career high - but then struck out the next two batters to strand two runners and hold Medlen’s lead.
Luis Ayala and Craig Kimbrel took it from there. Ayala used a double play to get out of the eighth, and Kimbrel collected his 45th save of the year and his franchise-record 35th in a row.
“I took advantage of the (pitcher-friendly) park a little bit and threw a lot more four-seamers up in the zone today, got some more flyouts than usual,” Medlen said.
Over the first two months of the season, Medlen went 1-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 starts. In 18 games (17 starts) since then, his ERA is about the same: 3.48. But his record, 12-6, as well as his mindset, have been a little bit different.
“(With) the success I’ve had my career so far before this year and then you start a year the way I started, I think I just got a little frustrated and jumped the gun a little bit,” said Medlen, coming off a breakout 2012 season when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA. “But it’s such a long season and I’ve got some good guys around me to keep me going in the right direction and straighten things out.”