Braves' bats fall flat against Cliff Lee
Kris Medlen knew his spotless ride as a starting pitcher would not last forever.
Without enough bite on his fastball, Medlen felt like just another pitcher, not the guy who was named National League pitcher of the month in both August and September last season.
The Atlanta Braves lost for the first time in Medlen's last 24 starts as Cliff Lee held them to two singles in eight scoreless innings of a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.
"If you told me I was going to go five innings and give up two runs in the first inning, I'd have told you (that) you were crazy," Medlen said. "I think it ended up OK, but we lost the game, so it's a bad day."
Lee (1-0) didn't win his first game last year until July 4, but the former Cy Young Award winner outpitched Medlen (0-1) with temperatures in the low 40s and a light mist falling most of the game.
Philadelphia scored two runs in the second on Ben Revere's fielder's choice RBI and Chase Utley's sacrifice fly RBI.
After Lee watched Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay lose the first two games by a combined 16-7 score, the left-hander walked none and struck out eight in 106 pitches to give the Phillies' renowned threesome a big lift.
Lee was concerned about facing Atlanta's potent lineup.
"They seemed really aggressive and were swinging the bat pretty good the first couple of games," he said. "I just tried to allow them to see the fewest amount of pitches as possible and attack the zone in good locations."
Lee left for pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis in the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon earned his first save by striking out pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena, getting Andrelton Simmons to ground out and striking out Jason Heyward.
Medlen, who allowed six hits, two runs, four walks and struck out three in five innings, labored through the first three innings on 61 pitches.
Lee, who either lost or received no-decision in his first 13 starts last season, improved to 4-1 with 0.77 ERA - a span of 47 innings in his last six starts against Braves.
Dan Uggla singled in the second and Justin Upton singled in the fourth off Lee, who did not allow a runner to get in scoring position.
"He's just consistent, man," Heyward said after going 0 for 4. "He's consistent. Whether it's on the plate or not, he's close enough to the dish and he's aggressive early and after that, he has a lot of weapons. Every time we've faced him, I've seen him like that."
Though Medlen finished the outing with respectable numbers, he hardly resembled the blossoming ace who went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last season.
In his final regular-season start last year, Medlen beat the New York Mets on Sept. 30 to surpass the mark of 22 straight starts set by Carl Hubbell for the New York Giants in 1936-37 and matched by Whitey Ford for the New York Yankees in 1950 and `53.
But against Philadelphia, Medlen issued a walk to load the bases once in the first and twice in the second. He escaped the jam in the first, but wasn't so fortunate the next two times.
Medlen escaped damage in the first before the Phillies took their first lead of the series in the second.
After Lee drew a walk to load the bases with no outs, Laynce Nix scored on Ben Revere's fielder's choice RBI grounder to make it 1-0. Jimmy Rollins walked to reload the bases before Utley's sacrifice fly RBI scored Erik Kratz for a 2-0 lead.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought Medlen competed hard despite not having his best stuff.
"His last two innings of work might have been the best two innings he's thrown since last year," Gonzalez said. "His delivery got better as the game went on. For him just to give up two runs, he did a nice job. Because very easily that game could have been out of hand right from the very beginning and he kept us in the ballgame."
Lee had 15 no-decisions in 30 starts last season, tied for most in the majors with Cincinnati's Mat Latos, but against Atlanta, he extended his major league mark to 18 straight starts of pitching at least six innings and walking either none or one.
Cory Gearrin and Jordan Walden pitched the sixth and seventh for Atlanta. Anthony Varvaro pitched the eighth and ninth.
Notes: Braves RF Heyward received his 2012 Gold Glove before the game. Heyward dived to his right near CF B.J. Upton to rob Ben Revere and end the sixth. ... Utley has driven in six of Philadelphia's 18 runs. ... B.J. Upton went 0 for 3 and is hitless in 11 at-bats with six strikeouts as a Brave. ... With a 4-2 win last Sept. 26 in Atlanta, Lee passed Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux with his 15th straight start of at least six innings and either one walk or none. Mathewson did it in 1908 with the New York Giants and Maddux in 1997 with the Braves.
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