There’s a pitcher in baseball riding a streak of 37-2/3 innings without surrendering an earned run and it’s not CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, or Roy Halladay.
It’s Kris Medlen, a little-known righty from the Atlanta Braves who has recently drawn comparisons to pitchers with considerably more name recognition.
Pitchers like Greg Maddux.
The average baseball fan probably doesn’t know who this guy is. In fact, he recently said on his Twitter account that even in Atlanta nobody recognizes him when he’s out and about, despite going 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA in seven starts.
That’s what Medlen has done since moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation July 31 against the Miami Marlins. The Braves won that game, as they have in each of his last 18 starts.
The only streak longer was the 20 consecutive starts the Yankees won with Roger Clemens on the mound back in 2001.
Medlen has been just about as dominate and overpowering as a pitcher can be. In his last five starts, he’s 5-0 with a microscopic 0.23 ERA, 41 strikeouts and just two walks in 39-1/3 innings.
His magnificent numbers paired with his pitching style have led many Atlanta fans to make comparisons to the Hall of Famer.
He doesn’t blow anyone away with a blazing fastball, but he throws strikes and locates all of his pitches, something he and the Mad Dog have in common.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick referred to him as “Maddux Junior” after his most recent start.
Medlen has tossed a pair of complete game shutouts in his last four outings, including in his last. Medlen scattered five hits over nine innings against Colorado Monday and punched-out a dozen Rockies in what was his most impressive performance yet.
The 26-year-old is no stranger starting and seeing success in the big leagues. In 2010, Medlen went 6-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 14 starts before going down with Tommy John surgery. Atlanta won 13 of those games.
After missing nearly the entire 2011 season, Medlen became a bit of an afterthought and left doubt in the minds of many as to what kind of pitcher he would be.
He answered those questions almost immediately in 2012 back where it all started – in the bullpen.
In late May, the Braves were mired in an awful eight-game losing streak and saw starters Mike Minor and Randall Delgado struggle to put zeroes on the board. Needing to shake things up a bit, GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez turned to Medlen.
He was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett to stretch out his arm and prepare for duty as a starter, a role that will surely belong to him for the foreseeable future.
One reason for starting Medlen in the pen in 2012 was to preserve his arm, which theoretically, is still recovering from Tommy John. The Braves set his innings limit at 150 and he currently has pitched 104.
By limiting Medlen’s innings in the beginning of the year, he should be available for the postseason if the Braves hang on and claim a wildcard spot.
He could be a huge X factor in Atlanta’s rotation, which lacks a true ace.
Tim Hudson is still more than capable of performing well, but at 37-years-old, his days of dominating at a consistent level may be behind him. He’s allowed five or more earned runs on six occasions this year, but also has held teams scoreless five times.
The consistency that Medlen has shown has to make Braves fans very excited about their postseason chances. A potential three-man playoff rotation of Medlen, Hudson and either Paul Maholm or Ben Sheets is certainly a trio that can shutdown opposing offenses.
Medlen returns to the hill tomorrow afternoon at Citi Field in New York. If he pitches like he has been for the last five weeks or so, it won’t be the first time he’s left a stadium full of opposing fans and players shaking their heads.
The Braves hope it won’t be his last.
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