Phillies-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves haven't lost a regular-season start made by Kris Medlen in nearly three years. His outings since September haven't gone nearly as well.

That includes a playoff loss as well as an awful spring that fueled some skepticism about Medlen, who will open a season in Atlanta's rotation for the first time with Thursday night's home game against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Braves will go for a three-game sweep behind Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA), who has his share of doubters about whether he can approach his astonishing performance following a move from the bullpen at the end of July. He went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 regular-season starts and got the nod over Tim Hudson for Atlanta's one-game, wild-card playoff against St. Louis.

"Sure, there are people who still question me," Medlen said. "It's no skin off my back. I'm just going to keep doing things the same way I've been doing, just keep playing the same way I've been playing, just being aggressive and confident in my abilities and my ability to get guys out."

Medlen's 2012 season ended on a sour note as he went 6 1-3 innings against the Cardinals but was charged with five runs - two earned - due greatly to a controversial infield-fly call that led to Atlanta losing 6-3.

Spring training didn't go much better. Medlen went 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in six starts and the last two were particularly bad, as he gave up 15 runs and 22 hits in 10 innings.

"I'm not worried or anything," he told the Braves' official website. "It's something I've done my entire life - figure out my delivery and figure out my pitches."

Atlanta (2-0) has won his last 23 regular-season starts dating to May 23, 2010. Medlen has won all 15 decisions as a starter since losing his first two as a rookie in 2009.

Philadelphia (0-2) lost 18 of Lee's 30 starts last year, and the left-hander had his first sub-.500 campaign since 2007. However, Lee (6-9, 3.16) had the fourth-worst run support in the majors at 3.20 per nine innings, and the Phillies scored no more than two runs in eight of his losses.

The former Cy Young Award winner didn't get his first victory of 2012 until July, going 0-5 with a 4.13 ERA through his first 13 outings. In his final eight starts, Lee was 4-2 with a 1.44 ERA while walking three and striking out 56.

"Physically I feel good, it's just a matter of executing pitches," Lee said after throwing four scoreless innings against Toronto on Friday in his exhibition finale.

He's executed brilliantly against the Braves recently, going 3-1 with a 0.95 ERA in the last five matchups with three walks and 37 strikeouts.

Lee should be wary of Justin Upton, who has homered in his first two games with the Braves. He's 3 for 8 with a double against Lee.

Being protected by cleanup man Freddie Freeman could bring a big year for Upton and brother B.J., the No. 5 batter who remains hitless in an Atlanta uniform. Freeman has three RBIs in each of the first two games as he's gone 5 for 7 with a homer and a double.

Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard is 0 for 8 thus far. He's 4 for 7 with two homers against Medlen but hasn't faced him since 2010 - the last time Medlen started against Philadelphia.

Chase Utley had two RBIs in Wednesday's 9-2 loss after getting three in Monday's 7-5 defeat.

The Braves have six homers in the series.

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