Freeman, Medlen lead Braves over Padres

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman is heading toward the postseason on a roll. So is Kris Medlen.

Freeman was 3-for-3 with his 21st home run and Medlen pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings for his fourth straight victory as the Atlanta Braves defeated the San Diego Padres 2-1 before a crowd of 40,153 at Turner Field on Saturday night.

The victory was the Braves' first after four losses to the Padres and reduced their magic number for clinching the National League East to four games after the second-place Washington Nationals had their seven-game winning streak snapped by Philadelphia.

Craig Kimbrel allowed a leadoff homer to Chase Headley in the ninth inning, but the closer stranded a runner at second base after a walk and stolen base for his career-best 47th save of the season and 37th consecutive conversion.

"I didn't think we were going to beat them this year," Freeman said of the Padres. "They've been playing us tough."

Freeman, who has 99 RBIs to go with his .314 average, has hit in 12 of his past 13 games and is batting .396 (19-for-48) during the red-hot stretch. His perfect night against the Padres, which included a walk, was his third multi-hit game in a row and his 47th of the season.

Medlen (14-12) allowed just four hits -- all singles -- while striking out five and walking two. The right-hander threw 72 of his 110 pitches for strikes on his way to winning for the eighth time in 10 decisions.

"He did a terrific job and mixed up all his pitches," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "His last four outings have been really good."

Medlen is 13-6 since starting the season 1-6 and has taken over the team lead with his 14 victories. He has allowed just three runs over 27 2/3 innings in his four straight victories.

"I think even more than the past few starts I was able to establish all three of my pitches early," Medlen said. "I've been trying to pitch like this all year. I've simplified things and feel like I've clicked."

Freeman picked on a 1-0 fastball from Padres rookie left-hander Robbie Erlin leading off the sixth inning and went the other way with a drive that just cleared the fence in left-center field to put the Braves up by two runs.

"It was supposed to be away and it came in belt high and caught about a third of the plate," Erlin said.

Erlin (2-3) pitching well, though, over his six innings. The 22-year-old allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out three.

Erlin, making his seventh major league start, hadn't pitched since Sept. 3 when he allowed two runs in 5 1/3 in a no-decision against the San Francisco Giants. His only road victory had come in his previous start at Arizona on Aug. 28 when he limited the Diamondbacks to one run in six innings.

"I'm feeling a little more confident with my off-speed pitches and keeping them down," he said.

Held to one run in the first three innings by Erlin, the Braves took the lead in the fourth. Justin Upton and Freeman opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Chris Johnson came through with an RBI single into left field on a 1-0 curveball.

The Braves almost made it 2-0 in the fifth with another two-out hit. Elliot Johnson, though, was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Chris Denorfica after a single by Upton. Johnson had singled and stolen second base.

Headley's homer in the ninth off Kimbrel came on a 1-1 fastball and was his 12th of the season and second in two games. Kyle Blanks and Tommy Medica struck out, Ronny Cedeno walked and pinch-runner Reymond Fuentes stole second base before Kimbrel, who hadn't allowed a run in 47 appearances before the homer, got Nick Hundley to bounce out to third base.

NOTES: Padres radio broadcaster Jerry Coleman turned 89 on Saturday. The 1950 World Series MVP for the New York Yankees is in his 41st season calling Padres games. ... Braves OF Jason Heyward, who suffered a fractured jaw on July 21, took batting practice for a second straight day and may be ready for instructional league games in Florida by the end of next week. He hopes to make it back before the end of the season. ... RHP Julio Teheran (12-8, 3.05 ERA) will start for the Braves against fellow rookie RHP Burch Smith (0-1, 9.17) of the Padres in Sunday's series finale. ... The Padres won two one-run games and a two-run game in sweeping the Braves in San Diego, June 10-12.
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