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Braves on brink of berth; playoff-hopeful Cards faces Astros

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The Sports Network
9/25/2012 12:07:18 PM
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(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves are one victory away from punching their ticket to the 2012 postseason.

Winning games just happens to be Kris Medlen's specialty.

The Braves have won Medlen's past 21 starts, a run that dates back to the 2010 season, and hope to keep that streak intact tonight in the first of three straight games against the visiting Miami Marlins.

Atlanta blew an 8 1/2-game lead a season ago in the wild card race and missed out on the postseason thanks to a stunning collapse. There has been no such repeat this September, with the Braves having won seven of their last nine and 14 of 21 this month.

A 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday lowered the Braves' magic number to clinching a wild card spot to just two and that number was lowered to one on Monday when the Milwaukee Brewers dropped a decision to the Washington Nationals.

Atlanta trails Washington by five games for first place in the NL East with nine to play.

The Braves have the right man to get the job done tonight in Medlen, who has gone 8-0 with a 0.76 earned run average in 10 games since being inserted into the starting rotation. He has yielded just six earned runs over 70 2/3 innings in that time while striking out 72.

The righty is coming off a win over the Marlins on Wednesday as he scattered four hits over eight scoreless innings, walking one and fanning six. He improved to 9-1 with a save and 1.51 earned run average in 48 total appearances this season, having not lost since a May 26 relief outing versus the Nats.

Atlanta, meanwhile, hasn't lost a game that Medlen has started since May 23, 2010. The Braves' 21 straight victories with the 26-year-old on the mound is the longest in baseball since the New York Yankees won 22 straight starts made by Whitey Ford in 1950 and '53. Ford missed the '51 and '52 seasons for military service.

Medlen, who is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in four games (2 starts) versus the Marlins this season, was moved up a day to put him on regular rest for a potential one-game playoff on Oct. 5.

The Marlins will start 22-year-old Nathan Eovaldi, who is 4-12 with a 4.36 ERA in 20 games this season split between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami. He is 3-6 with a 4.59 ERA in 10 starts since getting traded to the Marlins and lost four straight starts before getting a no-decision versus the Braves on Tuesday.

Milwaukee at Cincinnati

(Sports Network) - The Milwaukee Brewers enter tonight's opener of a three- game series against Cincinnati hoping that the Reds are already looking toward the postseason.

The Brewers sit 3 1/2 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot in the National League with nine games to play, one more than the Cards have left. They hope to make up some ground tonight after a 12-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday.

Milwaukee was undone by a six-run fourth inning by the Nats and it proved more costly when the Cardinals beat the Houston Astros on Monday.

Milwaukee lost for just the second time in nine games, but figures to have to play near perfect down the stretch as it does not have another regular-season meeting scheduled with St. Louis.

The Brewers hope that the Reds opt for some rest in preparation for the playoffs as they locked up the NL Central on Saturday. Cincinnati then lost a 5-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers the following day to conclude a three- game series.

Johnny Cueto takes the hill for the Reds looking to round into form before the playoffs. The Brewers counter with 27-year-old rookie Mike Fiers, who lasted only three innings in his most recent start on Thursday at the Pittsburgh Pirates. He needed 81 pitches and yielded three runs on five hits and a walk.

St. Louis at Houston

(Sports Network) - Left-hander Jaime Garcia can get the St. Louis Cardinals another step closer to the playoffs this evening when they meet the Houston Astros in the middle contest of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Cardinals enter the game with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the National League's second wild card spot.

St. Louis earned a wild card berth in 2011 en route to the World Series title.

For Houston, right-hander Lucas Harrell tries again for his first win in more than a month.

The 27-year-old was 10-8 on the year after a 10-1 defeat of the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 14, but has since gone 0-2 in six starts, including a 5-0 loss to the Cardinals on Sept. 19.

He allowed three earned runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings against St. Louis, dropping his career record against the Cardinals to 2-2 in five appearances.

Harrell is 6-2 in 12 home starts in 2012.

LA Dodgers at San Diego

(Sports Network) - Like a sunset on the West Coast, time is running out on the Los Angeles Dodgers and their quest for the postseason.

With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games off the final wild card berth in the National League and will open a three- game series tonight against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Los Angeles will turn to Josh Beckett for tonight's series opener and he is 1-2 with a 3.45 earned run average in five starts since coming over via trade from Boston. Beckett has posted back-to-back no-decisions and was touched for four runs -- three earned -- and five hits in seven innings of a 7-6 win Wednesday at Washington.

San Diego's chances of reaching the postseason have faded even though the club has played much better since the All-Star break.

The Padres salvaged the finale of a three-game series at San Francisco with Sunday's 6-4 win, as Mark Kotsay homered, Yonder Alonso drove in two runs and Everth Cabrera went 4-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.

San Diego is kicking off a six-game homestand versus Los Angeles and San Francisco tonight, and will hand the ball to Edinson Volquez. Volquez had won three of four starts until facing Arizona on the road in a 6-2 setback on Wednesday and allowed four runs in six innings to absorb the loss.

Kris Medlen (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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