Braves Offense and Defense Struggles to Support Medlen (Again) in Loss

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    The Atlanta Braves continue to struggle when Kris Medlen (1-4) takes the mound, a drastic contrast to last season when he posted a 10-1 record. Medlen suffered his third straight loss as the Washington Nationals came away with a 3-1 victory in Thursday night’s series finale at Turner Field.

    Washington’s starting pitcher Dan Haren (3-3) pitched eight innings giving up just four hits with four strikeouts. In 2012 the Braves won 23 consecutive games in which Medlen pitched, however Atlanta is just 2-4 in his starts this season with Braves’ hitters providing him an average of just two runs in support (the lowest of any Braves starter).

    “I’m tired of giving interviews where I say I tried to keep us in the game,” Medlen said. “I just didn’t have my ‘A-game’ in those first two innings; I told myself just go out there and just pitch the…ball.”

    Medlen pitched seven innings and was charged with seven hits and three earned runs and a season-high eight strikeouts, but struggled early, giving up doubles in the first and second inning. In the first inning, the Nationals claimed an early 1-0 lead after Denard Span led off with a double and scored on a single from Steve Lombardozzi.

    “I thought Medlen was outstanding and he gave us seven strong innings,” Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “If it wasn’t for an out at [third base] we might still be playing.”

    Along with a poor hitting performance, Medlen didn’t receive much help from the defense. In the second inning a tricky hop down the third base line proved costly for the Braves when third baseman Chris Johnson misplayed a ground ball allowing two runs to score for the Nationals. The play was originally ruled an error, but was later changed to a two-run double for Span. Adam Laroche hit a double to lead off the inning and Anthony Rendon hit a single. Both runners would score and were the difference in the game. After Thursday’s loss the Braves now hold on to a slim 2 1/2 game lead in the National League East.

    “Johnson said he just booted the ball. Nine times out of ten that’s a play he makes,” Fredi Gonzalez said.

    The Braves were able to squeak just one run across in the seventh inning when Dan Uggla managed to connect with a home run on a 3-2 breaking pitch, ending Atlanta’s scoreless streak at 15 2/3 innings over two games.

    “It’s very frustrating, our guy pitched well we just couldn’t get any run support behind him,” Uggla said.

    Haren kept the Braves hitters off balance with his cutters in the strike zone and threw 62 of his 90 total pitches for strikes.

    “[Haren] was doing whatever he wanted to do out there, he had great command of his pitches,” Uggla said.

    Gonzalez said before the game that his star hitters’ (Uggla and B.J. Upton) lack of production is not because of a lack of effort

    “I tend to stay out of the batting cage when it comes to those guys,” said Gonzalez. “They are putting the work in so you have to stay with your players when they are struggling.”

    Despite the Braves recent hitting slump, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton were awarded National League rookie of the Month and National League Player of the Month for April respectively. Since joining the Braves, Upton has been one of the few hitters in the lineup with consistent offense. In 26 games, Upton leads the majors in home runs (12) and is tied for first with 22 runs scored. Gattis continues his meteoric rise as one of the top rookie in Major League Baseball. Gattis leads all rookies in home runs (6), runs batted in (16) and has a batting average of .250.

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