Braves’ Kris Medlen tries to reverse trend

Kris Medlen hopes to build on the success he had Sunday night against St. Louis when he makes his next start Friday night in Philadelphia, against a team that has given him fits.

Medlen is 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 15 career appearances against the Phillies, including four starts. That’s his highest ERA against any team he’s faced more than five times in his career.

He lost each of first two starts against them this season, giving up eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings, including seven runs (six earned) in a loss July 7 during the Braves’ most recent trip to Citizens Bank Park.

Medlen made a pair of starts against the Phillies in 2010. He took a no-decision after allowing nine singles (one run) in 4 1/3 innings and won the other despite allowing four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Phillies have hit .333 against him in his career. Ryan Howard, who’s now on the disabled list with a knee injury, is 5-for-10 with two homers off Medlen. Jimmy Rollins is 4-for-13 with three doubles, Carlos Ruiz is 6-for-9 against him and Chase Utley is 3-for-8.

“That’s just a team I’ve always had trouble with,” Medlen said. “Nothing I can really explain other than I felt like I’ve pitched the same. I’ve felt like I tried to be aggressive with them, too. And they put the barrel on the ball.”

Medlen held the Cardinals to two runs in six innings of a 5-2 win Sunday night, facing a lineup that came into Atlanta leading the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and runs scored.

He made a mechanical adjustment before his previous start in New York that carried over into his Sunday start, but Medlen said a lot of what he’s trying to do comes down to his mental approach. He’s at his best when he’s not focusing so much on mechanics when he’s out on the mound.

“When I’ve done well this year, I’ve just said ‘Forget it,’ and I haven’t worried about it,” Medlen said. “When (Brian McCann) puts down the sign, puts down the glove, I’m just like ‘This is where I’m going with it’ — more confidence and more conviction with my pitches, rather than ‘make sure I stay balanced’ and make sure I’m doing this, like a checklist in my head in the middle of a game. You can’t play like that.”

Upton watch: B.J. Upton doubled in each of his first two at-bats while going 3-for-4 on Thursday night in the second of three scheduled games for Triple-A Gwinnett as he nears completion of his minor league rehabilitation assignment. He doubled in his first at-bat, drove in two runs with his double in his second and singled in his third, scoring three runs in all. He played six innings in center field.

The reports already were good from Wednesday night, manager Fredi Gonzalez said, after Upton went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and played six innings in center field in his first game against Charlotte.

“For the first time in two weeks facing live pitching, the at-bats were good,” Gonzalez said. “He’ll go again (Thursday and Friday), and we’ll check with him and see if he needs a couple more days, more at-bats, before we bring him up here.”

Entering Thursday, the Braves were 10-5 in 15 games since Upton went on the DL, and their lineup has been clicking to the tune of 29 runs in the first three games of the series against the Rockies. Gonzalez was asked if that kind of production complicates his decision on whether and where to play Upton when he returns. Upton has hit .177 on the season, and while showing signs of breaking out at times, was hitting .176 (6-for-34) for the month when he strained his adductor (groin) muscle July 12 against the Reds.

“No,” Gonzalez said. “The No. 1 thing for us is to make sure he’s healthy and make sure he’s ready to come back. That’s the No. 1 thing and when all those things are in place then we’ll figure something out. Something will happen, you know how that is.”

Jordan Schafer is expected to join Gwinnett on Saturday to begin his own minor league rehabilitation assignment. The speedy backup outfielder has been out since June 26, with the exception of a couple of pinch-hit at-bats, because of a stress fracture in his right ankle. He wasn’t showing any ill effects as he raced around the bases during batting practice Thursday.

“It felt really good,” Schafer said afterward.

Laird update: After waiting three days to no avail for a kidney stone to pass, veteran backup catcher Gerald Laird had a procedure done to remove it Wednesday afternoon, Gonzalez said. Laird needs at least a few more days to recover and will not accompany the team to Philadelphia. With two other catchers on the roster in McCann and Evan Gattis, the Braves have been able to cover his absence without putting Laird on the disabled list.