NL Wild Card K-Factor: Kris Medlen
The Atlanta Braves have managed to do what this year's Boston Red Sox team could not; they erased their failure to clinch the NL Wild Card in 2011 by making a strong run into the playoffs. They now have a one game, loser goes home playoff against the same team that knocked them out of the running last September: the St. Louis Cardinals. You can bet that Atlanta will be gunning for some retribution on Friday as they take the field in front of their home fans looking to take down the defending champs.
St. Louis sends RHP Kyle Lohse to the mound in the midst of a career season for the veteran starter. On the other side, Atlanta will throw young phenom Kris Medlen. Fresh off Tommy John's Surgery, Medlen was relegated to bullpen duty to start the season, being used in mid to high-leverage situations in a bullpen that featured both young fireballers lefty setup man Johnny Venters and right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel.
On July 31st, Medlen was moved to the rotation, and every fifth game since then, the Braves have won a game. In those twelve starts, Medlen broke a long standing record winning each of the past 23 games he started. The major factor in this game is going to be if the young gun can stand the heat of the post season and continue posting zeroes on the scoreboard. Let's take a look at what Medlen has done since his first start of the season.
Just looking at his overall stat line is a quite a marvel:
12 starts, 0.97 ERA, .801 WHIP, .191 AVG against, .218 OBP, .265 SLG, .483 OPS, 9.04 K/9, 84 K to only 10 BB
Since his first start, Medlen has given up less total bases than he has struck men out (79 TB). His strikeout pitch has been the fastball, reaching back for a little extra 48% of the time. His preferred location: down and away from right handers, and inside on left handers.
St. Louis hitters have had only 22 total PAs versus Medlen this year, making him a mystery to most of their offense. The key matchup for Medlen will be versus Matt Holliday, whom he has already struck out once this year on a changeup. So far this season, Holliday has victimized offspeed pitches down and in averaging .333 and hitting 7 extra base hits.
If Kris Medlen can continue to control the plate with all three of his pitches then the Braves can look forward to increasing the win streak to 24.