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Braves top Marlins to close in on NL Wild Card spot

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Associated Press
9/19/2012 11:03:11 PM
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MIAMI -- Kris Medlen and Chipper Jones found themselves linked in baseball's record books with Whitey Ford and Lou Gehrig.

More importantly to the Atlanta Braves, they just kept rolling along.

Medlen pitched eight innings of four-hit ball and the Braves won his start for the 21st straight time, beating the Miami Marlins 3-0 on Wednesday night. Jones went 1 for 4 in his final South Florida appearance, getting hit No. 2,721 to tie Gehrig for 58th on baseball's career list.

"That's the Iron Horse, man," Jones said. "Just really honoured to have as many hits in my career as one of the greatest in the game. Now we've got to work on passing him."

Atlanta, closing in on securing at least an NL wild-card spot, has won 12 of its last 17 games. The Braves picked up a half-game on Washington in the NL East race, closing within five games after the Nationals split a doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Marlins gave Jones a fly-fishing rod and a slew of accessories to commemorate his last game in Miami. They won't have to worry about him anymore, but Medlen might be a problem for years to come.

Medlen (9-1) lost the first two starts of his career in 2009. He hasn't taken a loss in any of his 26 starts since, with the Braves prevailing in the last 21 of those -- making them the first team since the New York Yankees to have such a streak, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees won 22 straight times when Ford started from 1950 through 1953, a span interrupted by his service during the Korean War.

Medlen tried to dismiss any comparison with the Hall of Famer.

"Whitey Ford? Pfft. Let's go. Come on. Don't even say it," Medlen said.

Medlen struck out six and walked one while lowering his ERA from 1.62 to 1.51. Rob Brantly doubled for Miami, which was shut out for the 16th time this season.

"Medlen threw the crap out of the ball," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We pitched well, but Medlen pitched better. I think this kid is, 'Wow.' He put on a show out there."

The first of Medlen's 10 starts this season was against Miami on July 31, when he allowed one run over five innings and the Braves picked up a 7-1 victory. Little did anyone know then how the next few weeks would go -- he's now 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA as a starter, as opposed to his 2.48 ERA in 54 1-3 innings in 38 relief appearances to start the season.

Medlen threw 99 pitches Wednesday, 66 for strikes.

"I thought he was good. I thought he was really good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Commanded the strike zone, both sides of the plate. We played some good (defence) behind him. ... That's a byproduct of Medlen pounding the strike zone, getting the ball, throwing the ball over and keeping guys on their toes."

Atlanta also made sure he had the lead before even taking the mound. Michael Bourn led off the game with a double and scored two batters later on Jason Heyward's sacrifice fly to centre off Josh Johnson, whose woes continued.

Johnson (8-13) gave up five hits, three walks and three runs in six innings, striking out five. The Marlins have now lost seven of his last eight starts.

"First three innings it was all over the place, whether it was fouling balls off and getting deep into counts or getting a couple guys 0-2, 1-2 and then just letting them back in," Johnson said. "You can't do that."

Dan Uggla scored in the second after drawing his NL-leading 89th walk, stealing second and coming around on Jose Constanza's single to centre. The lead went to 3-0 in the third when Atlanta made Johnson pay for another walk -- a leadoff pass to Martin Prado turned into a run on Freddie Freeman's sacrifice fly.

Medlen worked his way out of a little trouble in the fifth. Donovan Solano singled and went to third when Medlen's one-out pickoff throw sailed past first base. But Medlen got Bryan Petersen to pop up into short centre field -- Uggla, the second baseman, had his throw home go up the third-base line, but Solano was held anyway -- and then Gorkys Hernandez grounded to shortstop to end the inning.

Jones got an ovation from the crowd before his last at-bat in Miami, a groundout in the eighth. He tipped his helmet in acknowledgment, though his night wasn't totally perfect.

He apparently forgot how many outs there were in the third, getting tagged out on a 7-4-3 relay by the Marlins to end the inning.

"That happens with age," Guillen said.

NOTES: Jones has played more games (244) and collected more home runs (40), RBIs (165), hits (258), doubles (47) and walks (140) than any other opponent has against the Marlins. ... The Marlins and Braves both have Thursday off. Miami plans to pitch RHP Jacob Turner in New York on Friday against LHP Jonathon Niese, while Atlanta is expected to start RHP Tommy Hanson in Philadelphia on Friday against RHP Kyle Kendrick. ... Braves SS Paul Janish, who dislocated his left shoulder on Tuesday night, returned to Atlanta for evaluation. It's unknown if he could be back before the end of the regular season.

Kris Medlen  (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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