Ask 10 baseball fans or reporters outside the Southeast to name the major league starting pitcher with the best ERA over the past year, and Kris Medlen probably wouldn’t be named first by any of them.
But he is the pitcher.
Medlen allowed three runs in seven innings of a win Tuesday against Kansas City, giving him a 14-7 record and 1.95 ERA in 38 games (28 starts) since July 1. That’s the majors’ best ERA among qualifying pitchers who primarily have been starters during that period, ahead of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (14-10, 2.20 ERA) and the Mets’ Matt Harvey (10-6, 2.29 ERA).
The Braves’ Mike Minor also ranked among the leaders with a 2.55 ERA in 30 starts (15-7) before his start Wednesday against the Royals in the finale of the two-game series.
Medlen doesn’t have the overpowering fastball or devastating breaking ball that most other pitchers on the list are known for, something he joked about when asked after Tuesday’s game about the high-wire act that teammate Craig Kimbrel performed in the ninth inning against the Royals.
Kimbrel put runners on first and third with none out and got out of the jam unscathed. The overpowering closer did it by striking out the next two batters, and after an intentional walk with first base open (following a stolen base), he got Alcides Escobar on a routine fly ball for his 22nd save.
Medlen was asked what he would do if he had Kimbrel’s upper-90s fastball.
“I’d locate better, so I’d be way better than him,” Medlen deadpanned. “You know how stressful it is trying to locate 89 (mph) every pitch? It’s not very fun. But it’s a tough skill to do, and I think it’s why I’m hanging around. I just try to locate, and I think when I do well, I do that more often than not.”
Medlen had five strikeouts and one walk Tuesday and struck out all three batters in faced in the seventh inning after Jason Heyward’s homer in the top of the inning put the Braves ahead 4-3.
The win was his fifth in 12 decisions this season, although Medlen has a solid 3.02 ERA. In his past five starts, he’s 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA.
He moved to the Braves’ starting rotation in late July and went 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA in 12 starts the rest of the season.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.