Braves starter Kris Medlen, who threw seven shutout innings tonight in a win over the Nationals, was a switch-hitting shortstop back in his days at Santa Ana Community College. The Braves drafted him as a pitcher, one who now has a 1.86 ERA this season following tonight's game.
"Wish they'd have kept him as a shortstop," Davey Johnson said after tonight's game.
Medlen and Ross Detwiler matched zeros through four innings tonight, but in the fifth, the Braves got to Detwiler. The Nats, on the other hand, never got to Medlen, who held the hosts at bay in Atlanta's 5-1 win.
"I've got to tip my hat to that pitcher. He pitched a hell of a ballgame," Johnson said. "He's got a great curveball, he spotted his fastball, he's got a great change-up. Nobody really saw him that good. I knew he was good; he just reaffirmed what I said earlier: He's a heck of a young pitcher.
"Det had an explosive fastball. The only problem is he didn't use his other pitches. He just used his fastball. The second time around, he was also getting the ball up. But he did have an unbelievably good fastball that when he stayed down pretty much overmatched 'em. But you still got to use your other pitches."
To Johnson's point, Detwiler threw 78 pitches tonight, 74 of which were fastballs. The Nationals have been trying to get the 26-year-old lefty to be more aggressive with his fastball and pound the zone, but in Johnson's mind, there needs to be more of a balance than there was tonight.
"You've still got to have a curveball and a change-up," Johnson said. "Because good hitters keep seeing one pitch, I don't care how good it is, eventually you're going to get hit. I guess he got a little bit tired, too, where he was trying to hump up. The ball got up and he started getting hit."
The Nats were able to chip into a 2-0 deficit in the eighth with an RBI single from Michael Morse. That made it a one-run game, and it looked like Washington might be poised to tack on more when they got runners at first and second with just one out.
Ian Desmond grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the rally, however, and when the Braves added three insurance runs in the ninth, the game was all but out of reach. That blown opportunity in the eighth was similar to one the Nats had two innings prior, in which they loaded the bases with one out but failed to score.
On the eighth-inning play in which Desmond grounded into a double play, he came up lame about half-way down the line, sending groans throughout the stadium and causing Johnson to hold his breath until he heard his shortstop declare himself OK.
"Desi he scared me to death," Johnson said. "I thought he pulled a hamstring. And he said he just tripped. We're all right there."
The Nats leave town having taken two of three from both the Mets and the Braves, leaving them six games up in the division. They didn't get the sweep, but they did add to their cushion over Atlanta, their only NL East competition.
"We played hard," Johnson said. "That young man pitched a heck of a ballgame against us. We had the right people up at the right time and didn't get it done.