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Medlen pitches Braves to 7-1 start

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Atlanta starter Kris Medlen continued his mastery of the Miami Marlins and his dominance since the 2012 All-Star break, and Justin Upton provided yet another big hit as the first-place Braves rolled to a 3-2 win on Tuesday night at Marlins Park.

Medlen, who tossed 12 scoreless innings against the Marlins here last season, gave up one unearned run and three hits in seven innings.

Meanwhile, the Marlins got another stellar effort from a starting pitcher but failed to back him with much offense.

A night after Kevin Slowey tossed seven innings of two-run ball against Atlanta, left-hander Wade LeBlanc pitched six innings and allowed only two runs himself. But a lack of Miami offense -- just four hits -- rendered it meaningless in front of an announced crowd of 14,222.

"Guys are grinding out at-bats. We're just getting shut down," said manager Mike Redmond, whose team has produced just 16 runs through the first eight games.

"(Donovan) Solano hit that ball hard with the infield in (in the fourth), and the guy makes the backhand play. That's just kind of the way it's going. It seems like we try to get the bunt down, we try to avoid the double play and end up bunting into the double play (in the ninth). This thing is going to turn -- and hopefully soon."

The punchless Marlins (1-7) are off to their worst start since they began 1-11 in 1998. That team, which finished 54-108, scored 39 runs through its first eight games. These Marlins have scored seven in their only victory and a combined nine in their seven losses.

Atlanta, meanwhile, seems to be doing everything right. The Braves (7-1) tacked on an important insurance run in the eighth on Upton's RBI double to make it 3-1 right before the Marlins manufactured a run in the eighth when Placido Polanco stroked a two-out RBI single to right off reliever Eric O'Flaherty.

There would be no comeback in the ninth. Craig Kimbrel shut the door, picking up his fourth save of the season and second in as many nights. After giving up a leadoff walk to Solano, catcher Rob Brantly attempted to lay a bunt down. But the ball was lined directly into the glove of third baseman and defensive replacement Ramiro Pena, who doubled up Solano at first.

"Anytime you have a chance to add on, it's big because it kind of eliminates some stuff from the opponent, and we were able to do that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That was a big run that Justin drove in; it really was. We got in a little trouble in the eighth by walking some people, but, hey, we got out of it."

LeBlanc, who fell to 0-2 with a 3.27 ERA, made one crucial mistake to rookie catcher Evan Gattis in the first, which is the reason Miami played from behind all night.

The two-run home run, the second homer of the season for Gattis, came on a 1-and-1 changeup and bounced in front of the colorful home run sculpture in left-center field. It traveled an estimated 392 feet.

"I actually thought he did a good job of hitting," LeBlanc said. "He's a really strong kid."

The Marlins, shut out in their home opener and for the third time this season on Monday, capitalized on some shaky Atlanta defense in the second inning.

Braves center fielder B.J. Upton was charged with his first error of the season when he failed to reel in a long fly ball in the gap in left center off the bat of Greg Dobbs to open the inning.

With Dobbs on second, the next hitter, Solano, sent a slow grounder toward third that was fielded cleanly by a charging Juan Francisco. But Francisco's throw to first pulled Chris Johnson off the bag on a bang-bang play. Solano was credited with an infield single.

The Marlins scored moments later when Brantly lined out to left, plating Dobbs on a sacrifice fly.

The Braves made up for their defensive mishaps later to preserve their 2-1 lead.

With Polanco standing on third base after a leadoff double to open the fourth, shortstop Andrelton Simmons made a beautiful backhanded grab in the hole to rob Solano of what would have been a run-scoring single. Two batters later, after a walk to Brantly put runners on the corners with two outs, Medlen got out of the jam by getting Adeiny Hechavarria to bounce into a fielder's choice at third.

Medlen, who now owns a 1.03 ERA since the 2012 All-Star break, has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings at Marlins Park.

What's his secret?

"I think the size of the ballpark helps any pitcher really," he said. "It's the same thing when the Phillies come to town. It's like, 'Man, the Phillies are in town,' for me anyways. They always put really good at-bats against me, and with the Marlins, I think they're a quality team. They've got some guys over there who own me. Polanco owns me. Anytime I can get him out it's a success for me.

"You see that uniform over there and you know you need to make some pitches and execute some pitches for yourself and your team. That's what's happened. You take it a start at a time. I could get absolutely shelled next time, so you just take it a start at a time."

NOTES: Of the two Marlins starting pitchers on the disabled list, Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) is closer to returning than Nate Eovaldi (biceps tendinitis). Eovaldi, slated to be the team's No. 2 starter before going down the final week of spring training, said he is hoping to begin throwing next week. Alvarez, slated to be the team's No. 4 starter, said he hopes to begin throwing off a mound Friday or Saturday before beginning rehab assignments. ... Simmons, who injured his thumb last Friday sliding into second base, will wear a wrap on his hand to keep the thumb stable until it completely heals. Andrelton, who began the season as the team's leadoff hitter before being injured and missing two games, hit second Tuesday after batting in the eighth spot Monday. ... Gonzalez gave slumping right fielder Jason Heyward his first day off Tuesday. Heyward, with two hits in 24 at-bats, one homer and two RBI, was replaced in the lineup by Reed Johnson.

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