St. Louis must get past Braves' Medlen to defend title
BY PAUL NEWBERRY Associated Press
Friday, October 05, 2012
10/05/12 at 3:26 AM
ATLANTA - Break out the peanut butter and honey. Kris Medlen is ready for another start.
Only this time, it's the biggest game of his career.
The diminutive right-hander, who didn't even start the season in Atlanta's rotation, will deliver the first pitch in the inaugural wild-card playoff against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves couldn't have asked for anyone better in the winner-take-all format, considering they haven't lost a start by Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) in more than two years.
Just stop reminding him about it.
"It's not me by myself," said Medlen, who always snacks on a peanut butter and honey sandwich before his starts. "I've given up four or five runs in a start, and guys pull it out for me. My name is in the books or whatever, but it's a team thing. I didn't do it all by myself, that's for sure."
The Braves have won 23 consecutive starts by Medlen - a modern big league record. He eclipsed the mark held by a pair of Hall of Famers, Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford.
"You can't help but notice when someone's having the amount of success that he's had," said Kyle Lohse, who will start for the Cardinals. "It's impressive what he's done. Obviously, the team plays very well behind him, and to be that consistently good to keep your team in games or win games says a lot about what kind of pitcher he is.
"I expect him to keep doing what he's been doing out there," Lohse added, "and my job is to do the same thing that he's doing. Go out there and shut down their team."
No one is quite sure what to expect from the one-game format, which was added this year when Major League Baseball expanded the playoff field by adding a second wild-card team in each league.
One-and-done may be the norm in football. But this is a whole new ballgame for the big leagues.
"We know the necessity to make it like a Game 7," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "You do things differently. We've been anticipating it, but I also want these guys to know we just want to go out and play the game we've been playing."
Besides, St. Louis knows it's just fortunate to have a chance to win another title. The Cardinals finished six games behind Atlanta in the wild-card standings. If not for the new system, they would be watching from home.
"We're exceptionally happy about the format," Matheny said with a smile.
Despite losing Albert Pujols last winter in free agency, the Cardinals have a chance to pull off another magical postseason run. A year ago, they trailed the Braves by 10 1/2 games in late August, but Atlanta collapsed over the final month and St. Louis pulled out the wild card on a frenetic final day. That momentum carried right into the playoffs, where the Redbirds pulled off three straight upsets, including another stunning rally against Texas in the World Series.
Pujols may be gone. But there's plenty of holdovers from the title team, including Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
"A lot of guys with me in that clubhouse, they experienced last year from being 10 1/2 back and a lot of people kind of saying, 'Go get 'em next year,'" he said. "It helped us mature a lot and grow a lot as individuals and learn how to handle big situations like the one that's coming up."
Original Print Headline: Cards must face Medlen
Friday's wild-card games
NL: St. Louis at Atlanta, 4:07 p.m. (TBS-47)
AL: Baltimore at Texas, 7:37 p.m. (TBS-47)
Kris Medlen will start for Atlanta in Friday's wild-card game against St. Louis. BRANT SANDERLIN/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP