One year removed from one of the worst collapses in baseball history that saw the Braves let a 10.5-game lead evaporate, Atlanta is guaranteed at least a wild-card playoff game at home Friday.
The Braves remain mathematically alive for the division title, but their chances are considered a long shot. Washington currently holds a three-game lead in the N.L. East going into Monday's action. The Nationals host Philadelphia, as the Braves travel to Pittsburgh to tangle with the Pirates.
Atlanta has the ability to be the most dangerous team come the postseason. Since the All-Star break, the Braves own a team ERA of 2.89, which tops the National League by a half run over Cincinnati (3.34).
The Braves have someone on the mound other teams won't this postseason...his name is Kris Medlen.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez inserted him into the rotation in late July and since then, all of baseball has been taking notice.
The 26-year-old, who is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is having an incredible second half, with a 9-0 mark in 12 starts and a 0.94 ERA. Included in that span was a 12-strikeout performance September 3 against the Colorado Rockies, and 13 K's in Washington September 14.
The changeup is the right-hander's most effective pitch. Usually on the radar gun in the low 80s, a lot of his strikeouts come via swings-and-misses from the off-speed pitch. He is not a guy who overpowers hitters, as his fastball ranges in the high 80s to low 90s. His 1.5 walks per nine innings this season shows he is always around the strike zone.
Medlen is slated to start the wild-card playoff game at Turner Field Friday night. The likely opponent is St. Louis. The Braves' ace did not make a start against the Cardinals this season, but he owns a 4.76 ERA in three relief appearances against them in 2012.
If the Braves were to advance beyond Friday and play in the NLDS, their likely opponents would be Washington or Cincinnati (whomever finishes with the better record). Atlanta will host the first two games and play on the road the remainder of the series. Medlen would likely start Game 3 of the division series.
Atlanta has won the last 23 games started by Medlen (MLB record). While he may not be a secret weapon, no team has defeated him as a starter since May 26, 2009.